Following impressive victories over Florida State and Miami last weekend, No. 13 Duke travels to N.C. State tonight looking to notch its 16th straight ACC win.
Although the Blue Devils are in the middle of a five-game road trip, they were able to practice at home this week to prepare for the in-state rival Wolfpack (3-12, 0-5 in the ACC).
With one of the best homecourt records in the country, Duke (10-3, 5-0) has also thrived on the road and rides a five-match winning streak into Raleigh.
Head coach Jolene Nagel said her team's time back on campus, however, could not have come at a better time.
"This has been a really busy study time," Nagel said. "When you do that on top of travelling, you want to be sure to get enough rest to be able to compete."
The Blue Devils, who currently sit at the top of the conference standings, remain the best in the ACC in hitting percentage (.271) and kills per game (17.70). They have improved greatly in areas where they struggled earlier in the season-particularly serving.
In its recent trip to the Sunshine state, Duke recorded only 10 service errors over two matches.
"We are always working on that," Nagel said of her team's serving game. "But we minimized those errors quite a bit. Every missed serve gives the opponent a point and it hurts to miss a lot."
Leading the Blue Devil offense is senior Carrie DeMange, who currently has 229 kills and a .394 attack percentage for an ACC-best 5.0 kills per game. Juniors Sue Carls and Jourdan Norman have also shown strong play recently, with each attacking at around .500. Norman currently leads the team with 58 blocks and ranks second in the conference in hitting percentage, while Carls has 127 kills, third best on the team.
Middle blocker Ali Hausfeld, who both broke the school record for assists and cracked the ACC all-time top-10 list with her 5,083rd assist against Miami Sunday, has been a large factor in Duke's success in hitting percentage and kills-per-game. The senior is averaging 14.65 assists per game.
On the defensive side of the net, sophomore Rachael Moss has continued to be a defensive force, reaching double-digit digs in nine consecutive matches. Moss has also been exceptional on the serve, ranking third in the conference in aces.
Though the Wolfpack are currently winless in the ACC, the Blue Devils know better than to underestimate them.
"We need to play to our level and execute as quickly as possible," Norman said.
Despite N.C. State's record, the team boasts a young roster, which could prove to be a challenge for Duke.
"N.C. State has some good players we are not familiar with," Nagel said. "We've got video, but we have to be able to make adjustments when we see them live."
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