What started out to be another year of disappointing injuries and results has turned around quite quickly for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons women's basketball team. Head coach Jennifer Hoover led her squad to a 64-58 victory over the Duke Blue Devils, completing the in-state season sweep of N.C. State, UNC, and Duke for the first time since 1988.
In doing so, the Demon Deacs also broke its shocking 45 game losing streak to the Blue Devils, winning for the first time since 1993.
The victory moves the Deacs to 15-11 on the season and a respectable 6-7 in ACC play. Another notable streak is the four straight ACC games that Wake Forest has won. It's the most since a 5 game winning streak in conference play, also coming in 1987-1988.
Sophomore Amber Campbell led the Deacs with a career-high 27 points. Freshman Elisa Penna, the mid-season addition from Italy, contributed her second career double-double, pulling down 10 points and 10 rebounds. Jenna has averaged 33 minutes of play in her 15 games as a Deac, averaging 10 points and 6 rebounds per game, while shooting 37% from behind the three point line.
The attendance was 1,458 in the annual "Play For Kay" Pink Game in honor of Kay Yow, in conjunction with the Wake Forest Baptist Health's Comprehensive Cancer Center. It marked the second game this season that the Deacs have gone over the thousand fan mark in attendance, and the first since Jacksonville on December 14th, 2015.
Wake currently sits at 7th place in ACC play, and will face one of the best teams in the country in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The 24-1 Irish will visit the LJVM on Thursday night to take on the Deacs. The only loss so far for Notre Dame is to the No.1 Connecticut Huskies.
Despite the probably loss to Notre Dame, the Deacs finish up the season with a home game versus Virginia Tech, before traveling to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech on the road in the season finale. If the Deacs figure out a way to go 2-1 in those three games it would mean an 8-8 ACC record, which would be a huge step forward for Jen Hoover.
Although it has been a work in progress at times under Coach Hoover over the past three and a half years, the Lady Deacs are clearly on the right step to becoming a better team in the ACC. This year has proven to be a success despite several injuries (for what seems like the 5th straight season).
A big reason for optimism beyond this year is the recruiting success Coach Hoover has enjoyed. This year marks the fourth consecutive year that the Deacs rank in the top 25 nationally in recruiting. When you add the four recruits next year to the current base of Ariel Stephenson, Elisa Penna, and Amber Campbell, it is becoming increasingly likely that the second NCAA Tournament berth in school history is coming shortly.
Kudos to Coach Hoover and the staff, as well as the hard work from all the women on the team to fight back in the dog days of February to get to where they want to be. I would encourage anybody able to get out there on Thursday night and show some support for the Deacs, while also watching one of the best teams in the country in Notre Dame.