Duke is conference champions, but it still has work to do.
Following a historic regular season and ACC tournament run, the Blue Devils enter the NCAA tournament as the No. 13 overall seed and the top team in their four-team regional bracket consisting of UNC Greensboro, Georgia and Western Kentucky. One of four teams from the ACC to reach the 64-team field, head coach Marissa Young’s team is hitting its stride at the right time and is coming off quality wins going into the Athens Regional.
“We feel great—we’re in a good spot, we are playing hot, we’ve shown we can get things done with the pressure on,” Young said. “Having to scrap away with a one-run game against Clemson, we know it’s gonna be tough down the stretch…. They can handle those tight moments.”
Duke has had its fair share of ups and downs this season, with a huge win against then-No. 5 LSU being followed with a 20-game win streak, but they then went on a 1-9 stretch. Now, Young’s squad, led by a revitalized pitching combo and the hot bats of Deja Davis, Jameson Kavel and Kristina Foreman, has not lost a game since April 16 and looks to carry the 15-game win streak into the NCAA tournament.
Despite being assigned the top spot in a regional away from home, the Blue Devils cherish the opportunity to travel to the Peach State, especially with star junior pitcher Shelby Walters and Kavel being from Georgia.
“We get the opportunity to—have a lot of girls from Georgia—we’re going to have the opportunity to play in front of a great fan base and crowd, which is exciting,” Young said.
Following pitcher Peyton St. George’s tournament MVP run, Young said that her senior pitcher “took [her confidence] into this year and she and Shelby have continued to be a great one-two punch.” It is yet to be determined who will be starting each of the three games of the regional, as Young looks more into the matchups to make her final decision. Duke should be confident that the pitching is going to be delivering the same stuff it had in the latter part of the regular season and the ACC tournament, with St. George and Walters only surrendering five earned runs and 15 hits in 20 solid innings in the conference tournament.
With everything seemingly clicking again as it was early this season, the Blue Devils are excited at the opportunity to be a top seed amid skepticism of the team’s ability to make a deep run.
“We have nothing to lose, really. No one expects much from us but we know we can do it and we know that we’re at the top so all we have to do is go perform like we did in the ACC [tournament],” Foreman said.
Duke’s first game will be Friday at 12 p.m. against UNC Greensboro, which finished atop the Southern Conference. Saturday and Sunday’s game times and opponents are to be determined as Georgia squares off with Western Kentucky following the Blue Devils’ Friday matchup.
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Micah Hurewitz is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.