When Lindy Duncan graduated from Duke last spring, it left a sizable hole in the Blue Devil roster. Enter freshman Yu Liu, who had three top-10 finishes and led the team in scoring. Liu finished the season ranked No. 6 individually by Golfweek.
Suddenly, a Duke squad that should have been missing a leader turned into a top-3 team.
The Blue Devils are going for a third consecutive ACC Championship title this spring. After a victory at the Tar Heel Invitational and a runner-up at the Landfall Tradition, they’re in good shape. Duke wasn’t beat by another ACC team head-to-head all fall.
Still, you might say the ACC is the conference with the most moving pieces. Clemson joined the conference this fall and immediately rose to a No. 13 ranking. The only thing missing from the Tigers’ resume is a team victory. Freshman Ashlan Ramsey earned two individual ones, and classmate Sloan Shanahan nipped at her heels with a pair of top-3 finishes. It’s hard to predict how a start-up team will fare, but Clemson beat its preseason ranking of No. 21. I’d wager that the Tigers will not only be around by the time the NCAA Championship rolls around, but could finish inside the top 10 at that tournament.
Call Miami a surprise team as well. Fourth-year head coach Patti Rizzo has made a serious commitment to reviving her old team, and the four-time LPGA tour winner’s efforts led to a spot inside the top 50 at the end of the fall season. The improvements were most apparent at the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational, when Miami finished third to UCLA and Arizona State, two powerhouse Pac-12 teams.
As for a team to watch? I’ll be keeping an eye on Notre Dame. The Irish have experienced much success in the past two years, and have too much talent on their roster for a ranking just barely inside the top 50. Ashley Armstrong should continue to lead the Irish but has the talent to win an individual title or two in the spring. Freshman Jordan Ferriera has been a great addition while junior Kelli Oride and sophomore Talia Campbell are consistent scorers. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Notre Dame contended at its first ACC Championship this spring.