Last Friday, Duke’s volleyball team experienced something it wasn’t quite used to—losing. No. 24 Louisville swept the team in their opening match of the Louisville Tournament. After the game head coach Jolene Nagel spoke of minimizing mistakes and coming back strong for the rest of the tournament, and the team was clearly taking notes. Duke went on to beat Samford and Marshall in its the next two matches, in which freshman Emily Sklar amassed 29 kills, giving her 42 overall in the tournament.
This Friday, the Blue Devils hope to continue their winning streak as the Duke Classic gets underway, in which Duke will host Elon, East Carolina and Northeastern. Duke’s action begins against Elon at 7 p.m. Friday and continues Saturday versus East Carolina at 10 a.m. and Northeastern at 7 p.m.
Duke (5-1) is looking to continue its successful campaign and solidify itself in another tournament before entering ACC play. The Blue Devils will continue to look to Sklar as their driving force, after she and teammate junior Ali McCurdy were both named to the All-Tournament Team in Louisville. Only six games into the season, Sklar has been named the ACC Volleyball Freshman of the Week twice and leads the team with 75 kills. The team thrives when she plays well, and that is bad news for upcoming opponents, as she seems to be on an extended hot streak.
“I never really promise anybody a starting opportunity as a freshman,” Nagel said. “But she certainly seems to be managing everything right now.”
Elon (4-4) is coming off a bounce back, grinding win against Radford. After losing their previous match to Alabama, the Phoenix held off Radford thanks largely in part to Megan Gravely’s 24 kills. Gravely leads the team with 79 kills, averaging just under 10 per match. If Gravely continues to put out solid numbers this weekend, the Phoenix should be a steady opening-round test for Duke.
East Carolina (1-5) enters the Classic with a disappointing record, most recently losing to UW-Milwaukee, a team Duke swept earlier this season in the Duke Invitational.
The true test for the Blue Devils will come in the form of Northeastern (6-2). Junior Kelly Bacon, who leads the Huskies with 93 kills, has been a constant source of production. Northeastern comes into the tournament with back-to-back wins against Idaho and Cal Poly, and is set up to win its first two games against East Carolina and Elon.
“All three opponents this weekend have a little bit different style, which is great for us to have a look at,” Nagel said. “We haven’t seen Elon in a really long time and we haven’t played East Carolina for a few years now. Northeastern, we haven’t played for a long time as well.”
This tournament should serve as a good measuring stick for the Blue Devils, who open ACC play Sep.14 against N.C. State.