The Blue Devils spent most of the year working to get to their first NCAA championship, but now hope to raise the bar even higher to cap off a season of progress.
No. 19 Duke will take on 21 other teams Friday through Sunday on Lake Natoma in Gold River, Calif., in the program's first NCAA championship appearance in its 18-year history. The Blue Devils are coming off a second-place finish at the ACC championship and will once again look to outperform their seeding this weekend.
Duke is seeded 14th in the V8, 11th in the 2V8 and 12th in the V4.
"Success has already been achieved. Now it’s just how far we’re going to take it," head coach Megan Cooke Carcagno said. "Every team we get ahead of at this point is icing on the cake but don’t think we’re not competitive. If we get into a situation where we can pull a seed ahead, we’re going to do it.”
The Blue Devils have had two weeks to prepare for their next postseason event since matching their best finish ever at the ACC championship by finishing second behind No. 5 Virginia in all three events that are held at nationals.
Duke has been in California since Saturday and trained at Cooke Carcagno's home course before traveling to Gold River, with the Cavaliers taking the Blue Devils' boats across the country.
To outperform their seeding and crack the top 10 at the national championship, Duke will need another strong performance from their V8, which is anchored by first-team All-ACC performers Alex Stonehill and Katie Dukovich.
The boat was seeded fifth in the ACC before the conference championship but outpaced Syracuse by .041 seconds to finish second. The strong finish came after Cooke Carcagno and her staff reversed the entire order of the boat after it struggled in a dual meet against then-No. 9 Princeton at the end of the regular season.
"No one expected Duke to be there and we get to go out and prove that we’re there for a reason," Stonehill said of the Blue Devils' appearance at NCAAs. "We’re not going to go there and flop."
The 2V8 also comes off of a close finish after besting then-No. 15 Notre Dame's boat by .004 seconds to finish second at ACCs after being seeded third. As the highest-seeded Duke boat entering the championship, the 2V8 is hoping to continue improving on the biggest stage.
"We have no expectations, we’re just going in to try and be as fast as we possibly can and see how many teams we can take down," senior captain Lauren Miranda—a member of the 2V8—said. "We want to make a name for ourselves."
The Blue Devils' third boat, the V4, has been one of the team's most consistent all season, coming closest to knocking off Virginia and Princeton in dual meets during the regular season and coming in second at ACCs by a .62 second margin.
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After going from seventh in the conference to second in Cooke Carcagno's first year at the helm, Duke has one more goal on its mind before finishing the year—breaking into the top 10 at the national championship.
“To crack into the top 10 would be phenomenal," Cooke Carcagno said. "That would be very exciting and it would take a big step up from our team, but it's doable.”