Returning from a four-game road trip, the Blue Devils will have the chance to fight for first place in the ACC on their home floor.
No. 23 Duke will host ACC foes No. 18 Florida State and Miami this weekend after posting back-to-back road victories last weekend. The Blue Devils will take on the the Seminoles 6:30 p.m. Friday before squaring off with the Hurricanes 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, where the team has not lost all season.
“Everybody’s pumped,” senior defensive specialist Ali McCurdy said. “After two weeks on the road, it’ll be good to be back and have our fans here…. I feel like we always get pretty motivated when we’re at home.”
The Seminoles (14-5, 7-1 in the ACC) boast a five-game win streak, and Duke’s offense will have to beat senior middle blocker Ashley Neff, who is ranked ninth in the nation in blocks per set.
“We know we’re going up against big blockers but then also a well-run, well-rounded offense for both of those teams,” McCurdy said. “We have to play smart—we have to play aggressive.”
After Friday's match, the Blue Devils (16-3, 7-1) will have no time to waste before matching up against the Hurricanes (13-5, 6-2) the following day. Duke has not earned a win against Miami since 2010, and last year’s contest left the Blue Devils on the wrong end of a battle that lasted five sets.
All three of these ACC teams are currently in contention for the top slots in the conference. Duke has beaten 12 of its last 13 opponents and has finished all of its contests in four sets or fewer. This will be the first time all season the squad has had to face conference opponents on back-to-back days.
“Both matches are tough matches, they’re going be really challenging mentally as well as physically—we’ve got to be ready for that one on Friday and then make that turnaround for Saturday as well,” head coach Jolene Nagel said.
With a month remaining in the regular season, Duke is already setting records. McCurdy broke the school record for digs in the game against Georgia Tech last week, bringing Duke’s defense into the spotlight. On the offensive side, Duke is fifth in the nation in kills, averaging more than 15 per set.
“We know that both Florida State and Miami are good, obviously they’re at the top of the conference, but I think that the main focus is really just being able to play our game and not switching things up a whole lot,” McCurdy said. “[We have to] play how we’ve been playing throughout the season.”
In the midst of their most successful season in recent history, the team has shown its greatest success at home, giving up only two total games across eight different opponents.
"[It’s] wonderful, to be able to be home and play these two strong opponents here at home." Nagel said. "Hopefully we’ll get some people out here, some Duke supporters to really help us—give us that extra 'oomf' for this weekend."
Whether home or away, Duke has won largely throughout the season from a combined team effort from all positions on the floor. McCrudy and her teammates Emily Sklar and Maggie Deichmeister are all ranked in the ACC for digs, kills and assists, respectively, but Duke's key players change with every competition.
“We’ve been fortunate throughout the season. We’ve had different people step up at different times—it’s not always had to be one person,” Nagel said. “I think that’s a strength of ours, that we have different people who can step up on any given night to help us through.”