Duke entered Friday's meet against Virginia looking to establish itself as a legitimate contender against one of the ACC's top teams-and after overcoming a sluggish start, it managed to do that.
Despite coming up short against the nationally-ranked Cavaliers in Charlottesville, Va., the Blue Devils proved that they cannot be taken as lightly this year. The Duke men (3-4, 1-3 in the ACC) fell to No. 17 Virginia (6-2, 5-0) 126-100, while the women (4-3, 1-3) lost to the No. 20 Cavaliers (4-3, 4-1) 126.5-110.5.
Even though Virginia's men's team has won eight straight ACC titles and its women's team was undefeated before losing to North Carolina Saturday, the Blue Devils were not intimidated.
"It's easy to fall apart against a team like Virginia, but we had a lot of really competitive swims," freshman diver Julie Brummond said. "UVA has a huge tradition for swimming, and we're just building our program. We just tried to swim the best races we could."
But Duke came out with little energy and struggled early in the meet.
"The first half of the meet we were rather flat," head coach Dan Colella said. "We got together and talked about it during one of the breaks. In the second half we had some really fine performances."
Brummond led the Duke women, posting victories in both the 1-meter dive and the 3-meter dive.
Senior Jackie Rodriguez, sophomore Erin Frizzell and freshman Shannon Beall placed first in the 200 breaststroke, 200 backstroke and 200 butterfly, respectively.
"Those wins were huge for us," Brummond said.
The Duke men were led by divers Nick Campisano and Eric Winnard. Campisano and Winnard finished first and second in the 3-meter dive with scores of 321.53 and 305.03, respectively. In the 1-meter dive, Winnard placed second and Campisano was third.
Even though neither Duke squad came away with a win, the Blue Devils' performance shows that-unlike in previous years-they could be a force at next month's ACC Championships, which will be held at North Carolina.
"This was a good indicator that this year we can be a lot more competitive than in years past," Brummond said. "UVA is one of the best teams we'll face [in the ACC Championships], and we held up well against them."
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If the Blue Devils are going to succeed in Chapel Hill, they'll need to perform like they did in the second half of the Virginia meet-not the first.
"That's exactly the kind of energy, the kind of enthusiasm and the kinds of things that we'll need to be doing at the ACCs," Colella said.