Duke celebrates their 22nd ACC title (Duke Athletics via Twitter)
Two titles are better than one: that was top-seeded Duke’s goal entering the weekend. But it was the one Blue Devil who brought them there that would secure their conference title fate.
Gina Kim’s fired-up Friday ignited her and her teammates to take the ACC Championship title on Sunday at Sedgefield Country Club, defeating Florida State 5-0-0 in match play.
“It was a little bit of an experiment throwing match play in. All of us coaches got together and decided to do this. I know we won and I am bound to feel great about that, but I think it’s a really great addition,” said Blue Devils head coach Dan Brooks told ACC.
The newly introduced match play format for this year’s ACC Championship played well to champion Duke’s advantage, but not without an interesting start.
The weekend began with semifinals on Saturday, where Duke faced No. 4 seed Virginia. The Blue Devils counted on wins from freshmen Phoebe Brinker and Anne Chen, while a 4-under back nine stretch for Kim would advance Duke to the championship match.
Brinker’s front nine was slightly shaken up by Cavalier Riley Smyth, who responded to Brinker’s 1UP lead with one of her own by No. 6. Brinker charged to win the next two holes, cruising all the way to Duke’s first point with a 4&2 win. Chen never once dominated in her 5&3 win over Celeste Valinho. Relying on Kim after Erica Shepherd dropped her match against Beth Lillie, Kim entered her last nine tied up with Jennifer Cleary. She charged through seven holes to win 3&2.
Meanwhile, Florida State defeated defending champion Wake Forest 4-1-0, where the Seminoles looked to be in high gear; specifically, Beatrice Wallin, Amelia Williamson, Taylor Roberts and Alice Hodge. Wallin defeated Emilia Migliaccio 2UP, setting the tone early by claiming the lead for the rest of the match on No. 6. Williamson’s 2&1 over Siyun Liu and Hodge’s 4&3 win over Mimi Rhodes helped supplement the lock before Taylor Roberts took down Rachel Keuhn in 24 holes.
Entering Sunday, the Seminoles had high hopes for their first conference title in program history but ultimately fell short, with Duke’s wrath simply too much for the Seminoles to overcome.
The Blue Devils compiled their most riveting performance of the weekend and massively swept the Seminoles.
The first match teed off with Phoebe Brinker on all cylinders, where she won four of her first eight holes and never trailed. Dropping a hole to Williamson at No. 9, she quickly recovered on No. 10 and won the following two holes, dropping No. 13 but holding out strong where she claimed the match 5&4 after No. 14.
Jaravee Boonchant fell to Taylor Roberts early on the opening hole but stunned the Seminole by winning five out of the following holes. Roberts attempted to mitigate Boonchant’s advantage, but Boonchant swiftly cleaned up on back nine, winning Nos. 10, 12 and 13 to take the second point, 6&5.
It was Kim’s turn, where she claimed Duke’s third point on a full stretch of 18 holes. She faced Wallin in familiar territory, who had chased her for the stroke play title just two days before.
Wallin showed off a re-energized performance on No. 2, but Kim shut her opponent down by winning the next three holes. Kim firmly held on to her lead for the rest of the front nine, with Wallin coming close to tying it up to bring the margin to one, before a birdie response on the 15th and a par on the 16th sealed the 3&2 victory and Duke’s 22nd conference title in program history.
This one felt a little different, and Brooks knows it, citing how some early match play heat would put teams in a better position come NCAAs.
“It feels a little bit like nationals, and that is what we hope the conference does is sort of prepare you for further postseason,” Brooks told ACC.
With a clean sweep in the stroke play and match play competitions, the No. 2 Blue Devils are sure to feel ahead of the rest when the nationals in mind arrive.
ABOUT THE ACC Women's Championship
Match Play Championship with 54-holes of stroke-play
qualifying to determine the low eight teams
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