With Winter Storm Remus delivering 3-5 inches of snow to the Triangle, the snow has not stopped the Blue Devils from practicing hard in preparation for a busy week ahead.
After facing some trouble on the road, the Blue Devils head home with four ACC contests on the horizon beginning with Virginia Tech Friday at 6 p.m. and Louisville Sunday at 11 a.m. Duke will be looking to set the tone for the remainder of conference play.
“We were lucky because we struggled a little during the non-conference part of our schedule and but we’re fortunate that we’re in the same situation as 15 other teams and that we have a clean slate,” head coach Jamie Ashworth said.
After falling 4-0 to both No. 2 Florida and No. 10 Stanford last weekend, the Blue Devils will hope to use this experience to their advantage as they take on conference opponents this week. Having the opportunity to play top-10 competition was especially valuable for the team’s three freshmen, as they are new to the collegiate stage.
“We know what level we need to be at and the girls understand what level they need to be at," Ashworth said. "And so especially for those that haven’t been a part of college tennis before, they understand that now they’ve seen the best, they know what they need to do.”
Duke’s clean slate begins with Virginia Tech Friday at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Stadium. The Hokies (7-2), coming off a 6-1 win against Marshall, look to snag their eighth win, and feature a singles squad highlighted by Caroline Deaxhelet, who boasts a 6-0 record this season.
Like the Blue Devils, Louisville has had trouble on the road, losing their past four contests. The Cardinals (9-5) look to redeem themselves after falling to Duke 4-0 when the teams last encountered each other in January. Louisville's roster features sophomore Olivia Boesing, who holds a 9-2 overall in singles, and freshman Jessie Lynn Paul, who boasts a 10-2 record on the season.
In preparation, Duke has been putting itself in competition-like situations in practice, as with the two conference opponents coming to town, this week marks an important turning point in the season as conference play commences.
“Our conference is unbelievably tough, we have more teams in the top 25 than any other conference,” Ashworth said. “There won’t be an easy day but we’ll be ready for that.”
Although there has indeed been no easy day for the Blue Devils, there are still a lot of matches left in the season, and Duke recognizes that anything can happen on the road to the upcoming ACC and NCAA tournaments. But before the Blue Devils can focus on the postseason, they will have to do their best to make the most of their clean conference slate.
“Nobody ever remembers what happens in February,” Ashworth said. “We were a primary example of that last year, we won the National team Indoors and were ranked number one in the country in February and ended up losing to Virginia in the ACC tournament and losing in the quarters of the NCAA tournament. We’re kind of in the reverse situation of that this year and I’d like to take advantage of the fact that we have kind of a clean slate to work off of.”
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