The Blue Devils are currently searching. For some consistency, that is.
Duke (12-11, 3-8 in the ACC) finished 1-1 on the road this past weekend, defeating Virginia (7-15, 1-10) and losing to Virginia Tech (13-8, 6-5) Friday and Saturday nights, respectively. The Blue Devil lineup might vary game to game, mixing and matching with the team’s deep crew of players.
“The lineup is constantly changing,” head coach Jolene Nagel said. “We haven’t found a magic potion or combination yet. What we can do as a coaching staff is make decisions as best we can… it is the consistency that we are trying to find. If it’s not happening, we have other people that deserve to get out there and have the opportunity.”
The Blue Devils took the floor against the Cavaliers Friday night in what Virginia hoped would be its first conference win of the season. The Cavaliers’ hopes, however, were batted down in large part because of Blue Devil Megan Hendrickson’s play. The senior amassed a season-high 13 kills and 19 digs in the team’s third conference win.
“[Megan] has been playing defense this year for the most part,” Nagel said. “She hasn’t necessarily gotten the opportunity to play at the net this season. We wanted to go with her experience and leadership [this weekend]. She is passionate about her team and really cares that we are successful. We wanted to give her that opportunity. She did really well.”
Duke hit .257 on the night while limiting Virginia, the lowest-ranked team in the ACC, to just .167 hitting. Sophomore Jeme Obeime and junior Chelsea Cook both recorded 10 kills on the night and senior Christiana Gray compiled eight kills and no attack errors on 25 attempts. Sophomore setter Maggie Deichmesiter dished out 41 assists to help seal the victory (25-19, 24-26, 27-25, 25-15) for the Blue Devils.
The Cavaliers were led by freshman outside hitter Natalie Bausback, who totaled 20 kills on the night.
From Charlottesville, Duke headed south to Blacksburg to take on the Hokies, who were coming off of a 3-1 win against Wake Forest the night before.
The proof of a Blue Devil loss is made clear by the stat sheet. Duke’s hitting percentage in set one was -.054 and increased slightly in the second set to .108. Then, in the third set, which Duke won, the Blue Devils recorded a .325 hitting percentage. That was short lived, however, because Duke finished with a rate of .098 in the fourth set, conceding the match (16-25, 18-25, 25-22, 19-25).
The Blue Devils return to Cameron Indoor Stadium as they take on Triangle rivals North Carolina Friday and then N.C. State Saturday. The last time the Blue Devils took the court with the two teams, they picked up two losses. Duke looks to take advantage of playing host this time, where they are 8-3 so far this season.
Nagel is encouraged about the growth her team has undergone in the last month since it last faced the Tar Heels and Wolfpack.
“I definitely think we have grown,” Nagel said. “We will be playing [these] teams that aren’t as unfamiliar to us. We have a better idea of what to expect. As much as a coach can make sure we are working hard everyday and that the team is making the effort, we need to keep things fresh going into the second part of the season [where we play most ACC teams for the second time].”