ACC Championships Stretch Run Underway

Five events set this weekend, with busy May to follow

GREENSBORO, N.C. (theACC.com) –  It began last Friday morning, shortly after 7:30, when Boston College freshman Katelyn Reynolds lofted the day’s first tee shot at Sedgefield Country Club.

It will end mid- to late-afternoon on Sunday, May 24, when someone records the final out or scores a dramatic walk-off, game-winning run at Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Spring Championship Season has officially returned to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Things won’t quite be nonstop over the next five weeks, but they will definitely be a blur at times, and those in attendance will observe some of the nation’s finest college teams and student-athletes as they compete for ACC titles.

Last weekend’s ACC Women’s Golf Championship launched the parade of spring championships, and the event typified the eight events that lie ahead.

The 11th-ranked Virginia Cavaliers captured the 54-hole championship with an ACC record-low score of 837. Virginia rose to the top of a standout field that included defending national champion Duke, three teams ranked among the nation’s top 11, and a total of seven teams ranked among the top 35.

Women’s golf had the stage to itself for that record-setting championship, but the calendar is crowded in this week with the ACC Men’s and Women’s Tennis Championships set at Cary, North Carolina (Wednesday through Sunday); the Women’s Lacrosse Championship at Charlottesville, Virginia (Thursday, Friday and Sunday); the Men’s Lacrosse Championship at Philadelphia (Friday and Sunday) and the Men’s Golf Championship at the Old North State Club in New London, North Carolina (Friday through Sunday).

“It is going to be an interesting spring,” said Kris Pierce, the ACC’s senior associate commissioner who oversees Championships. “With the track and field championship being moved to mid-May, rowing being a mid-May date, and our baseball and softball championship continuing to be played in that month, we’re actually getting a bit more balance between April and May with our schedule. But that still doesn’t mean that this weekend isn’t still just crazy with five championships still going on at once.”

Each of this week’s events shapes up as a showcase of talent. ACC Men’s Tennis currently boasts seven of the top 15 spots in the ITA singles rankings, the most of any conference. In the team rankings, ACC squads occupy two spots in the top 10 and five in the top 20 (No. 5 Virginia, No. 9 Duke, No. 11 Wake Forest, No. 14 Virginia Tech and No. 16 North Carolina).

On the women’s side of the net, ACC teams hold three of the top 10 spots in the ITA singles rankings. North Carolina occupies the No. 1 position in a Top 25 that includes five ACC teams among the top 25 (also No. 10 Virginia, No. 15 Miami, No. 21 Clemson and No. 23 Duke).

There are an equally impressive number of contenders when it comes to lacrosse, where the ACC scored national titles on both the men’s and women’s side in 2014.

Seven of the eight ACC women’s teams are ranked this week by both Inside Lacrosse and the IWLCA, including five in the top seven of both polls. All five ACC men’s lacrosse teams are ranked in the top 10 by both organizations. The ACC holds the top two slots in each men’s poll (Notre Dame and North Carolina) for the eighth consecutive week.

And in men’s golf, the ACC claims the nation’s top team – Florida State – in the latest GolfStat and GolfWeek rankings. Four league teams are ranked among the nation’s top 25 by both publications, and seven ACC golfers rank among the nations’ top 40.

Following exam breaks, the ACC’s Spring Championships conclude with Softball at Virginia Tech (May 7-9), Outdoor Track at Field at Florida State (May 14-16), Rowing at Lake Hartwell in Clemson, South Carolina (May 15-16) and Baseball at Durham (North Carolina) Bulls Athletic Park (May 19-24).

The ACC Softball Championship will include a 2014 Women’s College World Series participant and the nation’s current eighth-ranked team in Florida State.

The ACC Outdoor Track and Field Championship moves to mid-May after an extended run during April, and ACC coaches and student-athletes seem universally pleased with the change.

“I’m really excited about our new May championship date,” Florida State coach Bob Braman said. “We’re in line with the other major conferences now, and it also allows us to compete during one peak season, rather than being five weeks between ACC and NCAA First Round.”

Pierce foresees the mid-May date of the ACC Championship helping conference teams in NCAA competition, which gets underway on May 28.

“It really allows our student-athletes to train, and our coaches to prepare them to be peaking in their performance heading into the NCAAs,” Pierce said. “Previously, our championship was only four weeks into the outdoor season, and we didn’t know if that was the best when it came for training and preparation for competing in the nationals.”

This year’s Track and Field Championship will feature six teams currently ranked among the nation’s top 25, including the No. 7 Florida State men. Individual competitors include Bowerman Watch List member Natoya Goule of Clemson (women’s 800 meters) and three student-athletes that have set ACC outdoor records this season – Virginia Tech’s Irena Sediva (women’s javelin), North Carolina’s Xenia Rahn (women’s heptathlon) and Syracuse’s Martin Hehir (men’s 10,000 meters). Also on hand will be Duke pole vaulter Megan Clark, one of only 11 women to clear 4-9.

“It's great to have the ACC meet back in Tallahassee,” FSU’s Braman said. “Our fans and alumni are going to enjoy seeing future Olympians. And the last time we hosted (2005), we almost broke the ACC scoring record.”

There will also be a change at the ACC Rowing Championship. For the first time since the event began 15 years ago, the ACC will add a fifth scoring event. This year’s event will see the debut of the Second Varsity Four race. With the addition of Louisville, a league-record nine teams will participate in the Championship, including the nation’s current fourth ranked team in five-time defending champion Virginia, as well as currently No. 17 Notre Dame.

ACC rowing also had a long run with an April championship, but this will mark the second year the event has been held in May.

“They changed their format based on the fact the NCAA went to an automatic qualifier system when they changed rowing from an individual to a team sport,” Pierce explained. “So we’re still trying to put our teams in the best position to win national championship.”

The ACC Baseball Championship provides the 2015 finale in Durham Bulls Athletic Park, which will host for the fourth time in six years and was spruced up in the offseason to the tune of $20 million. DBAP boasts a new playing surface, improved field lights, new seats, additional group picnic areas, and upgraded video displays and sound system.

The 2013 ACC Championship in Durham set tournament records for single-game attendance (11,329) and championship game attendance (8,697), and fans should have every reason to turn out big again next month. Six current ACC teams are currently ranked among the nation’s top 25, buoyed by newcomer Louisville at No. 4. Eight ACC teams are ranked in the Top 50 of the most recent NCAA RPI, including three in the Top 10.