“We want more in ’04.”
The words roll off the tongue of an excitedly optimistic Jolene Nagel, Duke’s head volleyball coach. Nagel quickly noted, however, that although this is the current slogan of the team, more complete goals will evolve as the season plays out.
The team, Nagel said, will likely evolve as a number of younger players adjust to larger roles.
“If you have to measure success in wins and loses, we want more success,” said Nagel, whose team was 10-19 in 2003. “But, we also have high expectations for ourselves.”
The Blue Devils are looking for a boost from an unexpected return and unfamiliar faces. Fifth-year senior Tassy Rufai decided to come back for her fourth year of eligibility, after leading last year’s team with 3.22 kills per game.
The Blue Devils also boast the 18th best recruiting class in the country, according to prepvolleyball.com, tops in the ACC. Duke has two Volleyball Magazine top-50 selections in high school teammates Carrie DeMange and Ali Hausfeld. The two players, from Archbishop Alter High School in Ohio, will take leading roles for the Blue Devils as middle blocker and setter, respectively.
“We have a great recruiting class,” Nagel said. “I see them making an immediate impact on the team.”
Additionally, Shelley Captio, a 5-foot-11 setter from Charleston, W.Va., will add some fresh talent to the team. Captio broke a bone in her foot during the team’s first practice, but she should return by the start of the season.
As the freshmen adjust to playing at the college level, the upperclassmen will have their own learning to do.
“We had a lot of seniors last year, and now we have strong underclassmen and rising juniors who will be getting more of a chance to play than in the past,” Nagel said.
The dynamic between upperclassmen and the freshmen has been a focus during the preseason. The team will also cope with an overall mental struggle, jumping into the season without a preseason game. Duke’s schedule boasts five matches against teams that made the NCAA Tournament last year.
“We have a very, very competitive schedule, but we were able to pick up some matches along the way that will give some people experience,” said the five-year Duke coach, whose team’s schedule that includes three tournaments and three ACC matches before the beginning of October.
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How the team gels, especially early in the season, will determine how much “more” the team can accomplish.
“That’s one thing we’ll see with our team, how we step up to the plate,” Nagel said.