It’s a different look for Duke this season, which starts the 2024 campaign with a new face, new lineup and even a newly renovated facility.
The biggest difference this year is the lack of anchor Chloe Beck, who was a key part of Duke’s lineup for the last four years. Beck, who originally committed to a fifth year with the Blue Devils, rescinded her commitment during the fall in favor of turning to the pro circuit. The loss of Beck, along with a potential Princeton transfer who also turned pro, leaves Duke with only seven rostered players.
“It’s definitely a challenging thing and something that myself and our coaching staff have to consider when we’re practicing during the week and conditioning. We have to make sure everyone stays as healthy as they possibly can,” said head coach Jamie Ashworth about the roster deficit. “We’re not going to change anything at this point. We’re going to play with the seven we have.”
Despite the relatively barebones roster, Duke has added a shining new face in true freshman Shavit Kimchi, who has played at the No. 1 singles spot multiple times so far this fall and winter.
“With this team, there’s a lot of movement in the lineup,” Ashworth said. “There’s all different positions and all different people. We’re just going to look at it match to match and week to week.”
Only four matches into their spring season, the Blue Devils have already made history. With their win against Illinois last Saturday, Ashworth became only the seventh women’s coach in NCAA Division-I history to reach 600 match wins. In addition, Ashworth was the fastest to do so, reaching this milestone in only 747 matches. He has been at the helm of the Blue Devils since 1997 and has led the team to the championship match twice.
So while the lineup may look different for Duke this season compared to years past, Ashworth has proved himself ready, and eager, to tackle the challenge this spring promises to present. And despite their smaller size, the Blue Devils look as ready as ever to punch with the country’s toughest squads. -Anna Newberry
New player to watch: Shavit Kimchi
Despite being the only freshman on the team, Kimchi has already proven to be a valuable addition for the Blue Devils. The Sdey Hemed, Israel, native entered her first season at Duke No. 65 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Federation singles ranking. Since then, Kimchi has become the first freshman since junior Emma Jackson to be named ACC Freshman of the Week.
Just last week, Kimchi played No. 1 singles at the team’s 2024 season opener against SMU. Whether or not she will keep the position is still up in the air, but she has certainly become an integral part of the team over the course of the fall season. Kimchi achieved a record-breaking three wins against top-30 opponents as a freshman, with her first against No. 17 Elza Tomase of Tennessee at the Debbie Southern Furman Fall Classic following a three-set battle (6-1, 2-6, 6-3).
In her short time at Duke, Kimchi has already displayed strength and resiliency in the face of tough opponents. If she can continue to do so throughout this spring season, she is sure to be a staple in the singles and doubles lineup. -Emily Wang
Returning player to watch: Katie Codd
Six of seven players on the roster this spring were on the team last year, many of whom had significant contributions on the court. Jackson will certainly be the chief name on people’s minds due to her tremendous 2023 campaign, but it is a returning sophomore who may have fallen under the radar and is worth keeping an eye on.
On a team that went 23-5 last season, Katie Codd had limited opportunities as a freshman, which was perhaps not a true reflection of her talent. Coming out of Carlsbad, Calif., Codd was the No. 14 recruit in the nation, and was also a top-20 player in the USTA rankings for players under 18.
“Through the fall, through the summer, and heading into the spring this year, I think that she has shown tremendous improvement,” Ashworth said about Codd. He also noted that he thought that some of last year's struggles were symptoms of being a young player on a veteran-heavy team.
On a team once again loaded with returning talent, Codd is set to make a positive impact on the Blue Devils’ season, and could be the key to consistently winning matches for Ashworth’s team in 2024. -Vishwa Veeraswamy
Most anticipated matchup: NCAA tournament, May 16-25, 2024
The team’s 2023 spring season ended in a disappointing loss against UCLA in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The then sixth-seeded Blue Devils were caught off guard by the Bruins’ offensive firepower and aggressive striking. In the high-pressure moments of the matchup, the team was unable to close out crucial games. Following the loss, Ashworth attributed this to a lack of confidence and an inability to take advantage of opportunities.
This season, the team is looking more confident than ever and are hungry to redeem themselves at the tournament. As the 2009 national champions and one of the top teams in collegiate women’s tennis history, the Blue Devils have a lot to live up to. The team is seemingly unphased though, focused only on improving themselves day-in and day-out.
“As I look at our season with this group,” Ashworth said, “the one thing that I think is going to define us is, are we willing to, no matter who the opponent is every match, pay the price every single day to get better and to push ourselves to get better?”
A lot can happen between now and April, but if the team can keep up this mentality of perseverance and hardwork, fans of the team can look forward to the Blue Devils’ run at the tournament this year. -Wang
The Blue Devils head into the season ranked No. 15, but don’t count them out of ascending towards the top of the national circuit. There will certainly be tough competition within the ACC, as North Carolina, N.C. State and Virginia all rank above Duke, with the Tar Heels coming in at No. 1 early on. These in-conference matchups will be decisive towards the success of Ashworth’s squad, but if they make good on their ACC champion upside, they also have a real chance at making a run in the NCAA Championships come May. -Veeraswamy
With a small roster, the Blue Devils are extremely vulnerable to injury, should it arise. If two players are injured at the same time, Duke will be forced to forfeit key matches. With such an intensive season and having multiple matches each weekend, injuries are not uncommon. However, this is not Duke’s only potential problem, as it may struggle in ACC play without powerhouse players like Beck. The lineup certainly looks different for Duke this season, and that could prove to be difficult, resulting in disappointing conference and postseason records. -Newberry
Newberry: 19-9 (8-5 in the ACC), loss in NCAA first round
Wang: 21-7 (7-6 in the ACC), loss in NCAA third round
Veeraswamy: 22-6 (7-6 in the ACC), loss in NCAA second round
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