After falling to Minnesota earlier in the season, the Blue Devils have another chance to take down a Big Ten opponent.
Duke will face Indiana Friday at 6:30 p.m. and No. 16 Illinois Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium to kick off the ACC/Big Ten challenge. The Blue Devils enter the match in a groove after going 3-0 at the 2013 Duke Invitational last weekend.
The Blue Devils welcome this weekend’s opponent as a more confident and cohesive team.
“I think we grew from that tournament because we were challenged at times and we were able to make adjustments and be successful,” head coach Jolene Nagel said. “I think it was great for the team and we are so focused on getting better everyday and we’re looking forward to some great competition in the upcoming weekend.”
Defeating the Hoosiers (8-1) will be no easy task, as Indiana hits the road also coming off a tournament win in the Hoosier Classic. The Blue Devils hope to shut down Indiana’s offense to remain undefeated at home in Cameron.
“We want to be able to protect our home court and be successful,” Nagel said. “The teams coming in will be great because they are both big challengers, and we’re glad to have some of these challenges at home which we’re excited about.”
In order to win, Duke (7-2) will rely on outside hitter Jeme Obeime, whose season-high 17 kills helped the Blue Devils beat South Carolina last weekend. Obeime said her performance last week has amplified her determination for the upcoming match.
“I’m confident. When I have a lot of kills it’s a lot of the team working together helping me get open, get shots, it means the team is coming together,” Obeime said. “We’re excited, we’re practicing really hard this week and we should be ready this weekend for some big competition and hopefully wins.”
Obeime, an Indiana native, lives just 60 miles from the University, and her sister, Ivie Obeime, previously played volleyball for the Hoosier’s in 2009-10. For Jeme, playing competitively in Indiana throughout high school has allowed her to share the court with many of the players on the current Hoosier team.
“Its exciting," Obeime said. "They won’t be my friends during the game, but I’m excited we get to play them. It should be a lot of fun because they are great competition."
Welcoming Indiana to her home court will be exciting for the outside hitter whose offensive skills will once again be put to the test by Hoosier defensive specialist Caitlin Hansen. Playing in the same district throughout high school, the two competed on several occasions and both played on the AAU circuit for Team Indiana Volleyball.
Once again, Obeime will look to capitalize on her kills against a determined defense led by Hansen, who already has registered 107 digs this season.
Duke has spent the past week in practice preparing for a persistent Hoosier team that holds a 2-0 record all-time against the Blue Devils.
“Our goal is to work a lot on blocking and mixing things up on offense like we have been," Obeime said. "Basically, we want to improve on the things we’ve been working on so far."
Duke has not seen Illinois (4-4) since 1989 when Fighting Illini swept the Blue Devils 3-0. The match will feature a clash between two of the nation's top defensive specialists. Duke libero Ali McCurdy ranks second in the nation in digs and is 133 digs away from eclipsing the program's all-time record. For Illinois, Jennifer Beltran is also threatening the program record for digs, sitting just 98 away.
Illinois has played one of the toughest schedules in the nation thus far, squaring off with six ranked opponents. The Fighting Illini fell to No. 2 Texas 3-2 in their last match.