DURHAM, N.C. – After closing out the regular season in strong fashion, the Blue Devil women and the program’s divers have set their sights on the 2018 ACC Championships, which kick off Wednesday at the Greensboro Aquatic Center.
Action in Greensboro gets started Wednesday at 10 a.m. with diving preliminaries. Swimming relay events begin at 4:15 p.m., followed by diving finals at 4:30 p.m. Competition on Thursday, Friday and Saturday features swimming preliminaries at 10 a.m., afternoon diving preliminaries and event finals beginning at 6 p.m.
Finals sessions Thursday, Friday and Saturday will be streamed on ACC Network Extra.
Click here for a complete schedule of events and more championship information.
ACC Championship Rewind: Recapping Last Year’s Meet
The Duke women were sixth at the 2017 edition of the conference championship, finishing with 725.5 points – up more than 80 points from the year prior. The Blue Devils rounded out the meet with program records in three individual and three relay events. Leah Goldman claimed All-ACC honors with a second-place showing in the 100-yard butterfly, earning the second podium finish of her career in that event. Duke also qualified two relays to the NCAA Championships – its 200 freestyle and 200 medley relays.
Blue Devils in the Conference Landscape
The Blue Devils enter the postseason having already set program records in three individual events. Sophomore Alyssa Marsh broke the school record in the 50 freestyle (48.63) and heads to Greensboro ranked eighth in the conference in that event. Senior Isabella Paez bested her own record in the 200 butterfly with a 1:54.93 clocking that seeds her third in the ACC. Paez is also one of four Duke swimmers with a top-12 seed in the 100 butterfly (53.38), joining Goldman (51.80), Marsh (52.10) and sophomore Kylie Jordan (52.63).
Freshman Connie Dean will look to make her mark at her first ACC Championships after breaking the program record in the 400 individual medley (4:12.40). She ranks sixth in the conference in that event, while Goldman is seeded eighth in the 200 individual medley (1:57.72). Senior Verity Abel enters her final ACC meet ranked sixth in the 500 freestyle (4:43.53) and ninth in the 1,650 freestyle (16:18.96).
“There’s no question that we have a great group of seniors who have swum at an incredibly high level throughout their careers,” said head coach Dan Colella. “To have that kind of experience and maturity on the squad helps the younger athletes stay focused and be in the moment. I think if we do that, we’re going to see a lot of great things.”
The Blue Devil women have recorded NCAA provisionally-qualifying marks in 13 swimming events – including one relay – and have surpassed the NCAA Zones qualification standards in two of the three diving events.
Scouting the Competition
Six ACC squads were ranked in the Jan. 31 edition of the College Swimming Coaches Association of America (CSCAA) Division I Poll, led by No. 7 Virginia. Reigning ACC champion NC State was tied for 10th, followed by No. 14 Louisville, No. 18 North Carolina, No. 19 Notre Dame and No. 25 Duke.
The Blue Devils finished sixth in the final ACC regular season standings with a 2-3 mark against conference opponents and an overall record of 4-3.
On the Boards
Junior Mackenzie Willborn owns the diving group’s top scores to date on the one-meter springboard (297.08) and on the platform (223.15) while senior MaryEllen Targonski has led the way for Duke on the three-meter board (310.95). Willborn and Targonski headlined two-three-four-five finishes for the Blue Devils on both springboards in the final dual meet of the season, a victory over North Carolina.
“No question, [head diving coach] Nunzio [Esposto] and the squad have done a great job all season,” Colella said. “They have a great track record at ACCs and we’re just looking forward to their performances. As always, they’re going to have a big contribution to the team’s overall success.”
“We’ve had some great training this year, but we’ve also had our ups and downs in terms of health and having a full roster at competitions,” Colella said. “It’s nice to be able to come into the home stretch with athletes healthy and ready to go. The dual meet against UNC and the Nike Cup Invitational are great indicators of what we’re looking forward to this week.”