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No. 14 Duke rowing struggles at Longhorn Invite to open regular season

<p>The Blue Devils were well behind No. 8 Texas in three of four A finals&nbsp;and will look to bounce back in mid-April against two top-five opponents.&nbsp;</p>

The Blue Devils were well behind No. 8 Texas in three of four A finals and will look to bounce back in mid-April against two top-five opponents. 

After sweeping last weekend’s Carolina Cup scrimmage against Clemson and North Carolina, the Blue Devils hoped to find similar success much further from Durham in their regular-season opener.

But Duke suffered from slow starts against several unranked opponents, and will now need to make improvements to stay in the top 15 nationally. 

The No. 14 Blue Devils took first in two of their eight races Saturday at the Longhorn Invite on Walter E. Long Lake in Austin, Texas, with only one of those victories coming in an A final. Taking on No. 8 Texas, Notre Dame, Oregon State, Central Florida, Iowa, Oklahoma and San Diego, Duke struggled early in races and had some trouble making up the gaps. 

"There were some really good moments, but I think we have more in ourselves,” Blue Devil head Megan Cooke Carcagno told GoDuke.com. “I'm excited to get to work over the next two weeks and watch as our team takes another step forward.”

The clear highlight for Duke came from its second varsity-four boat, with the crew of sophomore Jiahui Liao, freshman Madison Brown, senior Caroline Willis, sophomore Marissa Donadio and freshman Bella Miller taking home an A finals title.

The Blue Devils’ 2V4 opened their morning heat from behind, hitting their first 1,000 meters in third at 3:35.5—just half a second behind Iowa. However, a final surge in the second half of the race propelled Duke to second at 7:15.973 to secure a spot in the 2V4 A final.

Unlike their opening heat, the Blue Devils took an early lead and never looked back in the afternoon. Duke crushed its first split at 3:41.8—almost three seconds ahead of their closest competition. The Blue Devils managed to hold on for the second 1,000 meters to secure the 2V4 A title at 7:19.749.

Unfortunately for Duke, the rest of its boats were unable to keep the same intensity in closing their events.

Throughout the day, the Blue Devils’ top varsity-eight boat of junior Meagan Lew, junior Katherine Maitland, sophomore Isabel Ruby-Hill, sophomore Shannon Tierney, junior Jessica Findlay, junior Megan Conroy, junior Sarah Fletcher, freshman Olivia Mendonca and senior Elizabeth Horne found themselves at the bottom of the ledger. In its opening heat, Duke’s V8 was unable to push out of third after falling more than three seconds behind San Diego. 

In the final, yet again the Blue Devils found themselves battling from the back of the pack in fourth at 3:12.6—almost a second behind Central Florida and nine seconds behind Texas’ V8. Although Duke mounted a valiant final push in the final split of the race, it was unable to overcome the early deficit, closing out the race in fourth at 6:24.204

The Blue Devils’ 2V8 of freshman Karly Pearson, sophomore Rhea Bergman, sophomore Sophie Simister, freshman Lelia Boley, junior Abby Artmann, freshman Kiernan Spencer, senior Phoebe Donovan, sophomore Taji Philips and sophomore Celia Macrae opened up their run at the top of their morning heat at 6:16.643 despite a last-minute surge from Iowa. 

However, Duke was unable to find the same success in the 2V8 A final, as a third-place opening split followed by a weak finish planted the Blue Devils firmly in third—this time almost seven seconds behind Iowa.

Duke’s V4 was yet another boat to fall victim to the Hawkeyes.

In both heats, Iowa outpaced the Blue Devils by at least five seconds throughout the entire race. The crew of freshman Tara Fagan, senior Tani O’Neill, sophomore Julia Weber, sophomore Karley Whelan and junior Tara Christensen finished their first heat in second at 7:09.216. However, Duke was simply unable to keep up with V4s from Texas and Iowa in the event final, falling behind early in the first split and only recovering in time to take third at 7:23.333.

Cooke Carcagno's team will have three weeks off before facing a stiff test against No. 2 Ohio State, No. 4 Michigan and Notre Dame in Columbus, Ohio. 

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