With the suspension and later cancellation of all Duke athletic competition due to the spread of coronavirus, many Blue Devil seasons were abruptly cut short. The Chronicle is going to take a look back at those seasons affected as well as what we missed out on with their cancellations. We've already looked at men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball, men's lacrosse, women's lacrosse, men's tennis, women's golf, men's golf and women's tennis. Next up: rowing.
Duke proved ready for the spring campaign, winning the Carolina Cup for the fourth consecutive time less than a week before the season was cut short. Other notable victories include a win in the fall season at the Head of the Charles race on Charles river, earning first place out of 56 teams. Overall, the Blue Devils showed they were well on their way to a second straight appearance in the NCAA championships.
Senior Olivia Mendonca spent her first three years as a leader in the V8 boat and was expected to continue this role in her final spring season. This year, the senior competed in the V8 boat that won the Carolina Cup. After winning silver in the ACC championships and placing fifth in the NCAA C Final last year, there's no doubt that there were more great things to come out of Mendonca in this year’s postseason.
What we missed out on
The Blue Devils won their first gold medal at the ACC championships in program history last year, from a V4 boat with current senior Rani Duff, current junior Anne Klok and current sophomores Olivia Von Stauffenberg and Amelia Shunk. Duke’s ability to gain this award last season shows that its young rowers have been evolving each year and a comeback performance from some of the underclassmen, especially key freshmen, would have been nice to see. Shunk, who was named 2019 ACC Freshman of the Year, likely would have been one of the Blue Devils' driving forces in this year's postseason.
After competing in the NCAA championships for the second time in school history last season, a best-case scenario would entail building on that performance. The only other time Duke made an appearance at the NCAA championships was in 2016, and another appearance this season would have done a great deal in developing consistency for the program. Last year, the Blue Devils were ranked No. 12 going into the postseason but placed an overall 16th place in the NCAA championships. Duke also placed third in the ACC championships last year. The Blue Devils may have potentially been able to seal a first place win in the conference as well as a top-10 finish in the NCAA championships this time around.
The worst-case scenario for the Blue Devils would have been a poor spring performance after the solid fall and start to the spring season. An inability to build off last year's ACC and NCAA success would have been discouraging for a team looking to prove its worth on the national stage.
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