Taking another weekend road trip, Duke sets out to accomplish something it has not had to do in more than two months—bounce back from a loss.
The No. 24 Blue Devils will face off against Georgia Tech Friday at 8:30 p.m. at O’Keefe Stadium in Atlanta before taking on Clemson Sunday at 1 p.m. at Jervey Gym in Clemson, S.C. Friday's contest will be televised on Fox Sports South.
“This road trip is very difficult because we play two good teams in their home venues,” head coach Jolene Nagel said. “They do a great job of getting a good crowd there, having the bands there and having some great promotion, so it’s hard to play in these two facilities.”
After defeating then-No. 10 North Carolina in straight sets on the road last Friday, Duke's 10-match winning streak was snapped when the Blue Devils (14-3, 5-1 in the ACC) fell to N.C. State 3-1 Sunday at Reynolds Coliseum.
With a tiring weekend road trip in the rearview mirror and another one quickly approaching, Nagel said her team's focus will be key as Duke prepares to play its fourth straight game on the road.
“We have to make sure that we head out on the trip understanding that we are going to take it one game at a time, one match at a time, one point at a time and not get overwhelmed thinking about the entire weekend,” Nagel said.
Duke is now ranked fourth in the nation at 15.11 kills per set and 13.96 assists per set. Junior setter Maggie Deichmeister is currently ranked first in the ACC, averaging of 11.25 assists per set. Ranked second in the ACC for kills, sophomore outside hitter Emily Sklar has an average of 3.96 kills per set and recorded 17 total kills in the Blue Devils' loss to N.C. State.
The Blue Devils' 10-match streak—the team's longest since winning 11 straight in 2006—was nothing short of a collaborative effort, with four different players leading the team in kills during that span.
“I just think volleyball is such a team sport,” Nagel said. “It is hard to recognize any one player because those players that play in the back court that don’t necessarily get all the glory of hitting and everything are just critical to your team.”
Duke struggled with their defensive play against N.C. State, allowing 62 kills and registering just seven team blocks. Though the Blue Devils were able to minimize their hitting errors by the third set against the Wolfpack, they were unable to recover their normally-strong defense.
Leading Clemson's offense are senior outside hitter Mo Simmons and freshman middle blocker Leah Perri. Simmons is currently ranked first in the ACC at 4.63 kills per set. As for Georgia Tech, senior Jennifer Percy leads the team offensively with a total of 201 kills.
“We’ll continue to work to get better each day, which is what we have been doing, and what the team has been very focused on doing,” Nagel said. “We’ve been doing a lot of video tape evaluation and things like that in order to get better each time.”
The team will be playing at home next week after being on the road this upcoming weekend. The Blue Devils have learned from their mistakes and plan to learn from the challenges they face this upcoming weekend.
“We always learn about ourselves being in these challenging environments and situations so I look for us to learn a whole about us this weekend as we are on the road,” Nagel said. “Hopefully, we can have some success too.”