A pair of five-game matches on the same weekend can be physically and mentally exhausting. But when a team wins both against tough conference opponents it can have ramifications for the rest of the season.
The volleyball team (13-3, 4-1 in the ACC) looks to carry the momentum from grueling victories over Florida State and Miami into this weekend’s matchups.
“Those two wins on the road against good opponents are huge for our confidence,” head coach Jolene Nagel said. “That fact that they were in fives is only going to make us better in that situation again.”
Duke will face Clemson (8-7, 1-3) and Georgia Tech (9-5, 4-0) at 7 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Tigers have struggled thus far in the conference, but the Yellow Jackets sit atop the conference standings. A Duke victory Saturday could lift the Blue Devils from second place into the lead.
Georgia Tech will present the more formidable challenge, but Duke understands it cannot look past a young Clemson team.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Nagel said of a Clemson team that has already beaten a ranked opponent. “Clemson has complemented their group of experienced players with a talented group of freshmen, and they look stronger than they were last year.”
The game is a matchup of the best two serving teams in the ACC, and if one team has a strong returning day, the match could swing in its favor.
Georgia Tech’s is a big team and its strength is in its front line.
“They are strong fighters,” Nagel said. “I think they have a really great outside attack and a strong middle attack as well. Between that there are a lot of weapons you have to stop.”
After dropping its first four games, Georgia Tech has steamrolled through the start of its ACC schedule and has been ranked as high as No. 21. In four conference games, the Yellow Jackets have only lost a single game and blanked North Carolina, the only ACC team to knock off the Blue Devils.
The Yellow Jackets swept the Blue Devils in both meetings last year, but head coach Bond Shymansky knows Nagel has improved her squad with a strong freshman class.
“Playing on their court will be tough,” Shymansky said. “As strong as they are defensively, we are going to have to have patience and discipline on offense and make sure that we are executing well if we intend to beat them.”
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As the talented group of freshmen has learned to gel with Duke’s experience players, the team has improved each week, Nagel said. How well her team can sustain its play from last weekend will be a good indicator of exactly how good the 2004 team can be.
“l learned a long time ago not to predetermine how we are going to be,” Nagel said. “You never know how it is all going to come together. Of course I hoped we would be where we are right now, but this is the best case scenario. You never know that until you are in the moment.”