They say the devil is in the details. But in Durham, the Blue Devils are in the details—and numbers.
Duke softball won its first conference championship Saturday in a thrilling pitching duel, topping No. 1 seeded Clemson 1-0 behind the combined strength of Shelby Walters and Peyton St. George on the mound. It took just four years for the program, affectionately known by fans throughout the campaign as “Team Four”, to make its way to the top of the ACC, a feat that has earned the newly minted champions the No. 13 overall seed and No. 1 seed in the Athens Regional of the NCAA tournament, which is set to begin Friday.
It was an action-packed weekend for No. 7 Duke women’s lacrosse, who thrashed Mount St. Mary’s 19-3 Friday in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Championship before topping No. 12 Maryland 13-12 Sunday to advance to the Elite Eight. Junior goalkeeper Sophia LeRose, who breathtakingly turned away Maryland’s potentially tying shot as time expired, saved 18 shots across both contests, garnering IWLCA Defensive Player of the Week honors and propelling the Blue Devils to their first quarterfinals appearance since 2015. A tall task awaits the team Saturday, however, in the form of unbeaten No. 2 Northwestern.
It took all three sets and a decisive break of Central Florida’s Evgeniya Levashova, but sophomore singles player Chloe Beck ultimately pushed Duke women’s tennis to their third straight Elite Eight appearance with a gutsy 4-6, 6-2, 6-4 win Sunday night. Georgia Drummy and Meible Chi also won at singles for the Blue Devils who are now facing a daunting rematch with No. 1 seed and bitter rival North Carolina in the quarterfinals. The Tar Heels have historically held the edge over the Blue Devils at this point in the season with a 4-1 postseason record all-time.
Backed up against the wall, Duke baseball entered its weekend series against Virginia Tech knowing that it needed a win, and the Blue Devils did just that. Graduate student Erikson Nichols topped off a three-game sweep of the Hokies on Sunday’s Senior Day with a timely walkoff single to left field, securing the 12th and final spot in the upcoming ACC tournament for the Blue Devils. The bid comes as a sigh of relief for Duke after what has been a rollercoaster campaign, and, after eviscerating Davidson, with a little luck elsewhere and success against Clemson, they could sneak as high as a seventh seed in the ACC tournament and gain a fighting chance at making the NCAA tournament in June.
After a truly wild and incredibly successful Saturday of Blue Devil athletics that featured a pair of first-time conference championships from softball and women’s track and field, Duke will finish first in the ACC for 2020-21 titles, per GoDuke. Saturday’s trophies give Duke its fifth and sixth titles of the year, joining women’s golf, men’s lacrosse and both fencing teams to push the Blue Devils ahead of North Carolina (4) and Florida State (4) for good. In a remarkably unusual and uncertain year of athletics, it would appear that Duke’s athletic dominance hasn’t missed a beat, and Duke fans everywhere should see that as more than enough reason for celebration.
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