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Blue Devils aim to spike tournament competition

When teams host their early-season tournaments, they generally schedule a series of games that should result in easy victories. But that is far from the case for the Blue Devils volleyball team at this weekend’s Duke Invitational Tournament in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

“This should be a good tournament, all games are going to be very competitive,” head coach Jolene Nagel said. “It should be a good weekend of volleyball, we’re excited to come out and show the Duke community what we have to offer.”

Duke (2-2) looks to build on a promising start in its home opener tonight at 7 p.m. against South Carolina (3-1). The Blue Devils will then face Towson (3-1) and Northern Illinois (2-3) Saturday at 12:30 and 7:30 p.m., respectively.

After Duke squared off against some tough competition in the Loyola Marymount Classic last weekend, including a host team which consistently ranks in the top 25, the Gamecocks will present another formidable challenge.

“South Carolina is a good team that is always physical, aggressive and well coached,” said Nagel of a team that has already notched victories against Clemson, Marshall and Connecticut.

Towson scored an impressive victory last weekend against ACC foe Virginia Tech to go along with wins over Lehigh and Morgan State. The Tigers are the unanimous favorite to win the Colonial Athletic Association.

“With Towson, you’re talking about a scrappy, gutsy team that’s coming off of a conference title last year,” Nagel said. “This will be a very competitive game.”

The Blue Devils come into the weekend on short rest, but Nagel said the team has had time to improve in practice. Tuesday, Duke had an impressive 3-0 win over Campbell, during which the Blue Devils were in control from the very beginning.

“By challenging ourselves it has told us where we are,” said Nagel of the difficult opening stretch. “We’ve learned about ourselves and what we need to work on in practice.”

Although freshmen start at key positions, Nagel said the Blue Devils have been serving, passing, and running the offense well.

Senior Tassy Rufai slams down 3.7 kills per game, and emerging freshman stars Ali Hausfield and Carrie DeMange average 13.0 assists per game and 4.6 kills per game, respectively.

“We’re excited to be home,” Nagel said. “Cameron is beautiful, and a great place to play.”

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