Every new squad comes with its own set of new difficulties, but with the 2013 ACC Championship under their belts, the Blue Devils are eager to face these new challenges head-on, and develop a cohesive and successful team.
With the addition of four new freshmen, the team dynamic is shifting, according to sophomore outside hitter Jordan Tucker. However, the team is gaining four unique personalities and playing styles, and both players and coaches alike feel that only good things will come from these developments.
“It’s a brand new team,” Tucker said. “The freshmen bring a different vibe and different playing experiences to our team and I think it is making us better.”
Along with the changes to the roster, head coach Jolene Nagel said she has witnessed profound improvements in the skill levels of the returning players.
“That’s what so exciting about working with a new team,” Coach Nagel said. “Everyone has matured and grown so a lot of things change now, but this team has a lot of potential.”
Nagel has been impressed by the skill that the squad has displayed in maintaining a competitive, yet sportsmanlike environment. She is confident that the improvement she has seen in the upperclassmen will encourage the rookies to continue competing as hard as they have been in preseason.
“We’re all developing right now," Nagel said. "Trying to figure out who is going to be in what role, some players are getting new opportunities and there has been some great improvement in the last year. The freshmen are solid and are doing a tremendous job.”
With the loss of senior captains Ali McCurdy and Chelsea Cook to graduation and junior Elizabeth Campbell to transfer, the squad is looking for leaders not only to fill the roles they left behind, but also to bring something unique, both on and off the court.
Although replacing teammates brings its own set of challenges, the squad is looking forward to embracing the recent roster change and building their own conference championship-caliber team.
“It’s been really different not having them here, but not in a bad way,” sophomore defensive specialist Sasha Karelov said. “I’m excited to see how our captains this year will do a good job in their own way. We really want to focus on this year and making our own memories.”
Sophomore outside hitter Jordan Tucker agreed that everyone is trying to keep the main goal in focus, and said that she is confident that the experience the team has gotten so far this year will help propel them toward what they hope will be another ACC title.
Last season’s stunning Senior Day victory against North Carolina to capture the conference crown left a lasting impression on the upperclassmen, and they are eager to have that feeling back this year. As the team kicks off the season this weekend with the Duke Invitational, Duke will get a first glance at how well the 2014 Blue Devils will fare.
Duke will face North Florida at noon and High Point at 7 p.m. Friday.