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Duke heads north for ITAs

No. 1 Duke travels up north to Wisconsin this weekend to compete for the title of ITA National Indoor champions. The unbeaten and top-seeded Blue Devils (5-0) will compete in a bracket of 15 of the nation’s top teams for one of the sport’s top prizes.

The Blue Devils come into the tournament boasting impressive play at this early stage of the season. After five straight wins including a recent 7-0 handling of Indiana (7-1), Duke looks to build momentum while facing the nation’s elite.

“Hopefully we’re playing at this time of year as well as we can,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said. “You know it’s definitely a good test for us, it gives us a gage for where we stand and what we need to work on as we get into March and April.”

The Blue Devils open play today against the host, Wisconsin. The Badgers (2-4) come into the tournament reeling from consecutive defeats at North Carolina and N.C. State. However, according to Ashworth,  the team should not be taken lightly.

“The courts here are a little faster than we are used to,” Ashworth said. “They have a little bit of an advantage there. Playing against them, we have a bit of a target on our back—they have nothing to lose when they play us.”

If the Blue Devils survive the challenge against the Badgers, they will face the winner of the Clemson-Southern California matchup in the quarterfinals on Saturday. In last year’s quarterfinals, Duke lost a closely-contested matchup to eventual tournament winner Northwestern.

“Honestly, I think it was probably better that we lost against [Northwestern],” junior Ellah Nze said. “We came back and beat them like two weeks later. From there, it was a great way for our season to start; we got on a roll and had a great season.”

This year’s Blue Devils will also look to this weekend’s competition as an early chance to set the tone for the season, just as last year’s squad did.

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