For Duke, the keys to Thursday's conference opener against Miami are simple. They must maintain intensity, increase communication and, above all, just have fun.
After an impressive preseason showing against some legitimate out-of-conference contenders, Duke (9-3) is looking forward to getting its ACC slate up and running with a home match against the undefeated Hurricanes (12-0, 1-0 in the ACC) Thursday at 7 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"We're excited to get the ACC season started, and our team is excited to see an opponent in the conference and to go head to head with them," head coach Jolene Nagel said. "This is really what's going to determine our season."
Nagel sees the upcoming match against the unblemished Hurricanes as a perfect opportunity for her players to truly prove themselves in the conference and establish a precedent of play for the rest of the season.
Although she sees the matchup as demanding, Nagel is confident that her players have the skill set to come out with a win.
"It's time to step up to the plate and get going," Nagel said.
Specifically, the Blue Devils' success is contingent upon the elusive fun factor that has proven to be essential to Duke's winning ways. On Thursday, Nagel is looking for her seniors to become leaders and help facilitate the fun environment that she says the team needs to win.
"We play a lot better when we're loose and when we're having fun," Nagel said. "And not only do we as coaches want to nurture that atmosphere, but I'm looking for the seniors to nurture that atmosphere, as well."
"The team overall needs to get excited and have fun," senior Anna Wherry said. "That's something that we really need to focus on, and that's what we need to do to make sure we win the match."
Not to undermine the other factors that are essential to another victory, Nagel expects to see her players focus and play at a level that is necessary against a top team.
"I'm hoping that we have the intensity that we need to beat a good team," Nagel said. "That needs to come not only from the court but from the sidelines, as well. We need to continue to communicate, because that's critical to how we perform and to do what we want to do offensively and defensively. I also want to see a few smiles now and then, and that we're breathing and relaxing enough to be able to perform at our best."
After adding to these important factors a few key blocks, some killer hits and essential digs, the Blue Devils hope the combination will result in the smiles their coach hopes to see.
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