Duke volleyball to host NCAA tournament opener
Victor Ye / The Chronicle
They did—in a big way.
Duke won the ACC championship and earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament with a five-set victory against North Carolina Friday. Sunday, the tournament field was announced, and the Blue Devils got a reward for their labor. Duke will host the first two rounds of the tournament this weekend at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"The team has been very driven since we missed out [last season]," Duke head coach Jolene Nagel said. "That left a bad taste in our mouth, and it was a motivating factor for the kids that were here last year."
Duke (27-4, 18-2 in the ACC) was awarded the No. 16 overall seed by the NCAA selection committee, and will face College of Charleston in the opening round of the tournament Friday at 7:30 p.m. The winner of that match will face the winner of the Georgia-American matchup Saturday night for the right to advance to the Sweet 16.
Nagel said the team, which watched the announcement together Sunday night, did not celebrate the news for long. Soon after, players began pouring over the brackets in a business-like manner, looking at what they will need to do in order to make a deep postseason run.
Hosting will provide the Blue Devils with a home court advantage and another chance for the team's two senior captains, Ali McCurdy and Chelsea Cook, to play in front of their home crowd after last week's Senior Day recognition. Playing at home will also allow Duke to have an easier end to the semester. Rather than miss part of the last week of classes, the Blue Devils will be able to stay at home as they gear up for finals.
"We're excited about getting to host this week, especially during this busy time in the classroom," Nagel said. "When we get out of the classroom onto the court, that's kind of therapy for them. We feel like we've been rewarded, but now we've got to make the most of it."
Duke will enter postseason play riding a wave of confidence, having defeated its two major in-state rivals within the last week.
College of Charleston (25-5, 13-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association) won the CAA title in its first year competing in the conference after making the switch from the Southern Conference. The Cougars will not be entirely unfamiliar to the Blue Devils, thanks to some interaction on the club circuit in high school. Redshirt senior outside hitter Darcy Dorton leads the Cougars in kills with 386 on the season.
"They're going to be a team to be reckoned with," Nagel said. "They're well-coached and they're hungry."