After capturing their seventh consecutive win to cap off a perfect homestand, the Blue Devils prepare for their first ACC test on the road.
Duke continues its ACC schedule Wednesday at 7 p.m. against Notre Dame at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend, Ind. Coming off back-to-back wins against Virginia and Virginia Tech at Cameron Indoor Stadium, the Blue Devils look to get their first ACC win on the road in their first matchup against one of the conference's three newest members.
Carrying a lofty streak into South Bend, Duke (11-2, 2-0 in the ACC) is trying not to let the streak weigh on its primary goal—winning each match.
“We want to learn from where we’ve been and how we’ve performed, but we need to look at Notre Dame just as a next match and not as our eighth win,” Blue Devil head coach Jolene Nagel said. “I want the team to focus in on the next opponent at hand, not what we’ve done in the past or what we’ve accomplished so far. What we want is to compete at our very best against the next opponent.”
The Fighting Irish (6-7, 0-2) dropped their first two ACC matches on the road against N.C. State and North Carolina last weekend. Competing against Notre Dame in ACC play for the first time, the Blue Devils will also face an off-court challenge this week as well, traveling to Indiana for a midweek game and missing class time during a period of the semester chock full of exams.
“Its important for us to do well against Notre Dame and get this match as we head out there because we only play them once, but also because it’s a busy time at Duke academically before fall break,” Nagel said. “I hope we can manage all the different things in our world such as eating right and getting enough sleep so that we are ready to compete at our best against Notre Dame.”
For a Duke squad that leads the conference in kills and assists per set, getting off to a hot start will be crucial. Sophomore Emily Sklar led the Blue Devils Saturday against Virginia Tech by notching 13 kills. Sklar's presence along with outside hitter Jeme Obeime will play a major factor against a Notre Dame defense that ranks second-to-last in the conference in digs.
After recording 14 digs in her last contest, senior libero Ali McCurdy will have her hands full against Notre Dame's top two offensive threats, outside hitter Toni Alugbue and middle blocker Jeni Houser.
To manage the Fighting Irish, the Blue Devils will have to combat an unfamiliar Notre Dame team that holds a 6-1 all-time advantage against Duke.
Nagel squared off with Notre Dame five times when she was the head coach at Georgetown from 1992-98. Her Hoyas fell to Notre Dame in all five matches in the span, with a sixth loss coming in 2006, the last time the Fighting Irish and Blue Devils met.
“We are not very familiar with Notre Dame because it is their first year in the conference so we haven’t played them in a very long time,” said Nagel. “But we’re on a mission to win.”