The gyms Friday and Sunday nights respectively will likely be painted red and baby blue, but Blue Devil head coach Jolene Nagel hopes that some of those colors can be washed out by some royal blue.
All the colors of Triangle will be on display as the Blue Devils (9-3, 0-0) open up conference play this weekend with two quick trips down the road to N.C. State (12-1, 2-0 in the ACC) and North Carolina (9-2, 0-1 in the ACC) on Friday and Sunday. Nagel said she knows that the battles will not be settled quietly.
“N.C. State’s crowd is always a loud crowd in Reynolds’ Coliseum,” Nagel said. “So I’m kind of wishing I had gotten a bus to take Duke people to both matches this weekend right now.”
Nagel said she is aware of the challenge ahead of her team. Not only does N.C. State have the home-court advantage, but the team also has two conference wins under its belt going into Friday’s match.
Sophomore outside hitters Dariyan Hopper and Nikki Glass will lead the Wolfpack. Hopper leads her team with 137 kills so far this season, and Glass leads the conference in terms of serving with a 50-percent rate on aces. N.C. State beat North Carolina 3-1 last weekend and swept Wake Forest Wednesday night, earning the team the No. 1 ranking in the conference. The Wolfpack currently rank first in the conference in terms of lowest opponent hitting percentage while the Tar Heels rank second.
North Carolina currently sits at 0-1 in conference play. The Blue Devils will focus their hitting around the Tar Heels’ 6-foot-2 freshman middle blocker, Paige Neuenfeldt, who ranks second in the ACC in terms of blocks, averaging 1.41 blocks per set.
Nagel noted that the relationship between the Blue Devils and Tar Heels is civil and courteous but definitely not warm and fuzzy.
“We respect them very much, and they respect us very much, [but] once you get on the court, all bets are off,” Nagel said. “It doesn’t matter how anyone performed thus far in the season because everyone raises their level of play and we have to do that in their home environment, which is not easy.”
The Blue Devils take the court Friday night coming off a 1-2 weekend in Michigan, where they suffered a 3-2 loss to then-No. 22 Michigan last Saturday before returning to Durham.
“We are looking to build on our last match at Michigan,” Nagel said. “It was a great effort and we want to build on that [going into ACC play]. We’ve got to take things one match at a time.”