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The Chronicle's guide to Duke's 2018 spring sports

The Chronicle's spring sports preview hit stands Friday, getting you familiar with some of the Blue Devils' best teams and athletes with their seasons about to hit full throttle. Our beat writers previewed Duke's spring teams—here's what you need to know about them:

Men's lacrosse

The scoop: After eight straight appearances in the Final Four, Duke has not made the national semifinals since its title win in 2014. Now boasting what may be the most talented roster in Division I lacrosse, head coach John Danowski has all the tools to return the Blue Devils to championship weekend in May. The sophomore class, ranked No. 1 by Inside Lacrosse at the time of their recruitment, has grown up after playing heavily last year. Senior national player of the year candidate Justin Guterding seems more motivated than ever to win big. The roster has been further bolstered by graduate transfers Kevin McDonough and Peter Conley, as well as freshmen Joe Robertson and Nakeie Montgomery. The pieces are in place, all the Blue Devils have to do is perform. 

Key Players

Attackman Justin Guterding—The senior had 97 points a season ago and is rapidly shooting up Duke's all-time career points list. The offense runs through the stick of No. 14, and with his combination of experience, athleticism and I.Q., Guterding is primed for a season where he should contend for the Tewaaraton Award. 

Defenseman Cade Van Raaphorst—A preseason All-ACC pick at close defense, Van Raaphorst plays an aggressive but fundamentally sound brand of defense for the Blue Devil rope unit. Danowski will look to lock off his opposition's primary offensive option by putting Van Raaphorst on him for the duration of the game. 

Midfielder Peter Conley—A graduate transfer from Georgetown, Conley was the leading scorer for the Hoyas last year before arriving in Durham. Conley brings versatility, a knowledge of the game and a rocket shot on the run to Duke's first-line midfield. 

Games to watch: March 10 at No. 10 Loyola, March 24 vs. No. 16 Syracuse, April 7 at No. 8 Notre Dame. 

Prediction: First in the ACC, NCAA Semifinal.

-Sid Bhaskara

Women's lacrosse

The scoop: After a less-than-desirable season for head coach Kerstin Kimel and the Blue Devils, going failing to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in 20 years, Duke will try to revive its tradition of success and make a deep tournament run. A lack of discipline on both sides of the ball caused an abundance of turnovers in important matches last season, but Kimel hopes to turn Duke’s misfortunes around. With a balanced group of seasoned veterans and fresh young talent, Kimel will need to get her players to defend and attack with more intensity and alertness to bring the team back into national contention.  

Key Players: 

Attacker Charlotte North—As the top-ranked recruit in her class for the Blue Devils, North has a lot to prove this season. A two-time U.S. Lacrosse All-American and an Under Armour All-American in high school, North has the talent and the tenacity to quickly make an impact in her debut season. 

Goalkeeper Gabbe Cadoux—Following a rookie season of adjusting to the college level, Cadoux looks to improve her goals allowed margin and act as a defensive anchor and leader for the Blue Devils. Duke will need the preseason All-American honorable mention to stay sharp in the cage to make sure all aspects of the team’s defense are ready for whatever the top offensive teams in the country have to offer. 

Midfielder Maddie Crutchfield—In her final year for the Blue Devils, Crutchfield will want to go out with a bang, helping to lead her team deep into the NCAA tournament. As a senior captain and the team’s leading scorer last season, Crutchfield will face a lot of pressure to get Duke back in position to be a contender.  

Games to Watch: March 17 vs. No. 14 Penn; April 7 vs. No. 3 Boston College; April 21 at No. 8 North Carolina.

Prediction: Third in ACC, NCAA tournament semifinals.

-Conner McLeod 

Men's golf

The scoop: With expectations relatively high at preseason No. 24, Duke has fallen hard. The Blue Devils struggled mightily to play consistent golf in the fall, especially in the final round of tournaments. Head coach Jamie Green has yet to find a stable lineup, while the team’s poor play has carried over into the first event of the spring spring. Duke has the talent and enough experienced players to live up to its preseason expectations, but as of now, the horizon does not seem promising. Duke showed flashes with two top-three finishes in the fall, but will have to learn how to finish and play more consistently if it wants to return to the rankings. 

Key players:

Chandler Eaton—The All-ACC sophomore has actually lowered his scoring average this fall, but has been susceptible to the occasional implosion. Duke’s most talented golfer and short-game whiz will need to be more consistent if the Blue Devils want to go far. 

Evan Katz—The freshman has flashed some promise, carding three top-12 finishes this fall, but struggled mightily in his first spring outing. If Katz can develop into a reliable lineup option for Green, Duke could become much deeper. 

Alex Smalley—The junior has been Duke’s best golfer for the second straight year, leading the team in scoring average at 70.7. Smalley has been clutch throughout his career, finishing in the top five in both the ACC championship and NCAA regionals last season. Look for Smalley to continue to pace the Blue Devils. 

Events to watch: Querencia Cabo Collegiate March 4-6, Stitch Intercollegiate at MacGregor Downs April 13-15. 

Prediction: Sixth in ACC, NCAA regionals

-Ben Leonard

Women's Golf  

The Scoop: The final semester of the Leona Maguire era comes with much anticipation, as a team stacked with talent young and old will make Duke a serious contender for the national championship yet again. The fall season was one of the best in Blue Devil history—the team won three fall events for the first time since 2005 and also saw two individual champions in Maguire and sophomore Ana Belac. A touted recruiting class has also quickly made its mark, with Jaravee Boonchant and Miranda Wang combining for nine starts and six top-30 finishes and former No. 1 amateur Hannah O’Sullivan still waiting to make her first career start.

To start the spring, Duke struggled among an elite field on a difficult course and turned in its worst finish of the season in an eighth-place result—showing there is still plenty of room to grow as the team prepares for postseason play. If everyone is firing on all cylinders come May, though, the Blue Devils will be tough to beat and may return from Fayetteville, Ark., with their seventh national title.

Key Players: 

Leona Maguire—No. 1-ranked amateur and two time ANNIKA National Player of the Year Maguire leads the team with a 70.1 stroke average and has four top-10 finishes in five starts this year. A national championship has eluded her despite being a part of three contending teams, so the senior should be plenty motivated to get the job done this year as she departs Durham.

Jaravee Boonchant—the Bangkok native holds the team’s second-best scoring average—71.2—and carded the lowest fall scoring average by a freshman in team history thanks to four top-15 finishes. Given Boonchant’s quick ascension to the top of the lineup, it will be interesting to see how she handles the increased pressure of postseason play, which begins April 20 with the ACC championships.

Virginia Elena Carta—Although she’s had a relatively quiet season so far, Carta has the potential to break out and win at any time, as evidenced during her historic summer two years ago, when she won the individual national championship and finished second in the U.S. Women’s Amateur. Like Maguire, Carta brings plenty of postseason experience to the table and can impart her wisdom on the younger Blue Devils as they experience college golf’s biggest stage for the first time.

Events to watch: Darius Rucker Intercollegiate March 2-4, Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic April 13-15.

Prediction: First in the ACC, NCAA championship match-play semifinalists.

-Drew Johnson


The Scoop: The Blue Devils, led by head coach Chris Pollard, opened 2018 ranked in the top 25 in a few preseason polls. Duke returns most of its 2017 squad that compiled a 30-28 record and nearly made a Cinderella run in the ACC tournament, with wins against No. 15 Clemson and No. 10 Virginia. The Blue Devils hope to reach the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years, and just the second time in five decades. Perhaps the most interesting storyline for Duke this year is the draft status of power-hitting junior Griffin Conine, who could become the Blue Devils’ second player drafted in the first round of the MLB Draft in the last 40 years, joining current Blue Jay Marcus Stroman.

Key Players: 

RF Griffin Conine—The 6-foot-1 junior had a breakout 2017 campaign, in which he led the Blue Devils in nearly every offensive category—on base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, total bases, walks and RBI. Conine’s momentum carried into the summer, when he earned the Robert A. McNeece Award, granted to the strongest professional prospect in the Cape Cod Baseball League. The Weston, Fla., native will likely be a first-round pick in June’s MLB Draft, and was named a preseason All-American by numerous publications.

CF Jimmy Herron—Herron will serve as a formidable leadoff hitter for Duke once again in 2018. In 2017, the speedy junior led the team in batting average and stolen bases. Don’t think of Herron as your typical quick slap hitter in the first spot of the lineup—he was second among Blue Devils last year in total bases, and third in slugging percentage and home runs.

P Ryan Day—Pollard returns his Saturday starter in Day, who amassed a mere 3.30 ERA in 2017. Remarkably, the senior right hander allowed zero home runs in 73 2/3 innings last year, and yielded only a .233 opponent batting average. Day started his 2018 season strong, allowing just one earned run in six innings in Duke’s Feb 17 victory over No. 15 Vanderbilt.

Series to watch: March 9-11 vs. No. 17 Virginia; April 13-15 at No. 5 Florida State; May 11-13 vs. No. 6 North Carolina

Prediction: Sixth in the ACC, NCAA tournament appearance.

-Derek Saul


The Scoop​: This may be Duke's inaugural season, but don’t be fooled: these women are ready to compete already. After going undefeated in the Big 10/ACC Challenge, the Blue Devils have shown prowess and experience far beyond their years. Despite being a roster dominated by freshmen, Duke has yet to struggle the way one would expect from a program this young. The ACC only placed three teams in the 2017 NCAA tournament, and Duke looks to make a strong impact from the get-go. This season will likely be an exciting mix of surprises and inevitable growing pains. 

Key Players: 

Pitcher/First-Baseman Katherine Huey—Huey is responsible for both of Duke’s home runs, eight RBIs and a .583 batting average. She has also struck out 16 players so far this season. In just her second week as a collegiate athlete, the Cumming, Ga., native was named as the ESPNW Player of the Week for her dominant performance in the Big 10/ACC Challenge. 

Infielder/Outfielder Jameson Kavel—Kavel leads the team in hits (11), runs scored (8) and total bases (18). She is aggressive on offense, with a 1.000 stolen-base percentage for 6 stolen bases. The Duluth, Ga., native also has six RBIs and leads the team in doubles and triples. Kavel is offensively productive and will be key in putting and keeping the Blue Devils on the scoreboard. 

Catcher Jill Ferraro—Ferraro comes as a transfer from UNC and brings with her experience as a dependable hitter and catcher for a program that qualified for the Women’s College World Series. Her experience and leadership will play a key role in keeping the young Duke squad focused and ready to play collegiate ball. 

Games to watch: ​March 9-11 at North Carolina; April 20-22 at Virginia Tech. 

Prediction: ​Fourth in ACC Coastal Division, ACC tournament appearance.

-Béa Rose

Women's Tennis

The Scoop: Ranked No. 4 in the country, the Blue Devils are in prime position for a successful run at the national championship in May. But before then, they will have to face a daunting ACC slate that includes top-ranked North Carolina and two other top-12 teams. Duke has shown that it can play with the best of the best thus far, losing a tight match against the current top-ranked Tar Heels in the semifinals of the ITA National Indoors after knocking off then-No. 2 Georgia.

With two of the top six doubles teams in the country and four of the top 87 singles players, Duke has a lot to look forward to this season after failing to advance past the NCAA Round of 16 last year and going six years since its last Final Four. The doubles, which was an area of strength in the fall, has struggled at times in dual matches in the spring. If the team can put together its singles and doubles play in the dual-match setting, Duke’s second national championship will be within arm’s reach.

Key Players:

Samantha Harris—At the top of the lineup for the Blue Devils is 10th-ranked Harris. The Sydney, Australia, native has seen great success in the fall season in singles, as she finished as the runner-up in both the Carolina Regional as well as the ITA Fall Championships in November. But Harris has recently struggled at times to get the wins on Court 1, with three losses and four matches unfinished in the new year. On the doubles end, Harris has paired up with Chen and is currently ranked No. 3 in the nation. Alongside Chen, the duo made their way to the semifinals of both the ITA All-American Championships and the ITA Fall Championships en route to holding the top ranking entering the spring.

Kelly Chen—Ranked No. 4 on the ITA Freshman/Newcomer list, Chen has taken college tennis by storm. Currently ranked No. 22, the Cerritos, Calif., native has been named the ACC Freshman of the Week for the second week in a row and third overall in part due to her five ranked wins to date. One of those wins came in Honolulu, as Chen defeated current No. 13 Ashley Lahey from Pepperdine. Chen moved into the second position for Duke when ACC play began. Teamed up with Harris, the senior-freshman duo has seen a great deal of success thus far.

Meible Chi—The notion of a sophomore slump could be seen with Chi in the fall. Failing to capitalize on chances coupled with some unfortunate draw placements, Chi saw her preseason ranking of No. 20 dwindle all the way down to No. 100 by the time the spring rolled around. But the sophomore took charge of her play in the fifth position—now in fourth spot—and has not loss a match since the middle of October, having notched two victories over ranked opponents. With her recent success, Chi has skyrocketed up the rankings to No. 47. With the recent addition of freshman Hannah Zhao, Chi now has a teammate in the third doubles slot.

Matches to watch: March 2 at No. 10 Wake Forest; April 6 at No. 12 Georgia Tech; April 20 vs. No. 1 North Carolina

Prediction: First in ACC, NCAA tournament runner-up

-Spencer Levy

Men's tennis

The scoop: With few matches played this season with a full, healthy team, the No. 13 Blue Devils will begin the outdoor season after a 7-4 indoor season this year. In his 10th season, head coach Ramsey Smith will look to potentially do well enough to host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, and the team’s veteran experience with only one freshman in the lineup could help against several ranked ACC opponents.

Key Players: 

Nicolas Alvarez—After missing the entire 2017 spring campaign due to a wrist injury, the redshirt junior will return to the court this season in hopes of a healthy run. Now ranked No. 34 in singles, Alvarez played in the ATP World Challenger Tour last October in his hometown of Lima, Peru, where he made it to the second round of the main draw in singles. Alvarez will lead his team as the No. 1 singles player and part of the No. 1 doubles team during the outdoor dual season. 

Nick Stachowiak: After posting of the teams’ best records during the fall season, going 11-3 in singles and 8-4 in doubles, the sophomore returns for his second outdoor season as a Blue Devil. Stachowiak finished last season as the team’s MVP, and looks to continue that trend, seeing that he ended the fall with a pair of titles at the Wake Forest Fall Invitational. He will give the Blue Devils a safety net of confidence throughout the season. 

Catalin Mateas: With his last match of the indoor season ending in a picture-perfect comeback win against top-25 Notre Dame, Mateas gives the Blue Devils the depth they need going into the outdoor season. With his preseason ranking of No. 61 in singles, Mateas excelled in doubles in the fall season, going 5-1 and winning the Duke James Bonk invite with partner Jason Lapidus. As the outdoor season begins, Mateas has proven that he will serve as a reliable option in singles and doubles for Duke. 

Matches to watch: March 10 vs No. 6 UNC North Carolina; March 18 at No. 1 Wake Forest; April 22 at No. 16 Florida State.

Prediction: Sixth in the ACC, NCAA tournament second round 

-Dani Schneider

Track and field

The scoop: The Blue Devil women are fringe contenders in the ACC even after losing All-American Madeline Kopp, with a lot of scoring potential in the pole vault, long jump, 200 meters and triple jump. If they have a good weekend at a big meet, they could make some noise. On the men's side, losing hurdler Jeremy McDuffie due to an ACL tear during football season will sting, but Duke still has impressive high jumper Rivers Ridout and added former Olympian Steven Solomon as a graduate transfer.

Key athletes:

Sprinter Maddy Price—Price is half of the Blue Devils' one-two punch in the 200 meters along with Kethlin Campbell, and the two have been going back and forth throughout the winter during indoor track season. Price, a senior, also runs the 400 meters for the Blue Devils and can be a key piece of their sprint relay teams.

Sprinter Steven Solomon—Solomon ran in the 400-meter finals at the 2012 London Olympics for Australia and arrives at Duke after an All-American career at Stanford. He could be a scorer at some of the Blue Devils' early-season meets, but he will depart to run in the Commonwealth Games in Australia when the season heats up in April.

Meets to watch: Duke Invite April 20-21; ACC outdoor championships May 10-12.

Prediction: Fourth in the ACC for the women, ninth in the ACC for the men.

-Hank Tucker


The Scoop: After turning in their best season in program history two years ago, the 2016-17 Blue Devils took a step back. Despite getting as high as No. 17 in the rankings, Duke finished just fourth in the ACC and missed out on getting an at-large bid to the NCAA championships. Although it was an up-and-down fall season for the Blue Devils, they were able to finish out on a high note with a trio of top-five finishes at the Rivanna Romp in November.

Key Rowers:

Coxswain Meagan Lew—The senior leader is the anchor of Duke's two top boats at the V4 and V8 levels, and is one of just nine Blue Devils in her final season of competition for a team that is primarily made up of freshmen and sophomores. Lew was part of the crew that collected last year's Carolina Cup and earned ACC Crew of the Week honors, so any hopes for a successful season will likely fall on the shoulders of the diminutive veteran.

Rowers Lelia Boley, Olivia Mendonca, Katherine Maitland and Isabel Ruby-Hill—Together, this foursome will likely comprise Duke's No. 1 V4 boat as well as half of the Blue Devils' top V8 crew. With a pair of sophomores, a junior and a senior, there is plenty of talent as well as experience to go around, and without a lot of depth, Duke will need to make its hay at the top with its best boats in each division.

Events to watch: Clemson Invite March 14-15; Ohio State/Michigan State Double Dual April 21.

Prediction: Fifth at ACC championships, fail to qualify for NCAA championships.

-Mitchell Gladstone


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