For senior Jourdan Norman and her teammates, this weekend's matches in the Charleston Preview are all about starting strong-those essential first few plays after Duke walks onto the floor could make the difference.
As early-season play comes to an end, the Blue Devils (6-3) hope to use their last out-of-conference tournament in Charleston, S.C., to improve their overall strength as a team and iron out some wrinkles before the regular season begins.
"I want to work on communication and getting crisp in our plays and executions," Nourman said. "It's most important that we start the game off right. I know the times that we have lost we have relaxed and gotten down earlier on in the game, and I think that will be important to our success to start off strong."
Similarly, for Duke head coach Jolene Nagel, this tournament is an extra opportunity to grow and evolve as a team.
After only three weeks of matches and the installation of four new freshmen on the team, Duke naturally finds itself working on its overall identity.
"Normally, we would be going directly into ACC play this weekend, but because of changes in ACC scheduling, we have this one more weekend of out-of-conference play, and it's great because our team is still trying to find ourselves a little bit," said Nagel. "Not that that's a huge problem at all, but we're just gaining experience together. With this tournament, we're going to be able to get to know each other better."
After her team dropped a heartbreaking decision to then-No. 13 Middle Tennessee State last week in the Hilton Invitational, Nagel is grateful for the opportunity this weekend to work on the kinks the Blue Raiders exposed.
With a match against College of Charleston (3-2) Friday and then matches against Delaware (2-8) and Gardner-Webb (2-8) Saturday, Duke will have plenty of chances to improve on the aspects of its game that Nagel believes are lacking.
"We certainly brought back some things to work on," Nagel said. "Being up against some strong competition and coming up just a little bit short, we saw some things we need to work on and those have been our focus over the past few days.... We're going to work on our block and our defense and just trying to transition better out of that."
And although the Blue Devils are cautious not to forget about their competition this week, Nagel believes that more than anything, this tournament is about focusing on what's happening on Duke's side of the net.
"I look for this weekend to continue to be something where we're taking a look at some different things to try and figure out what's going to work for us down the road and what might not," Nagel said. "We're going to be able to look at a few things that we might not have gotten to see with our regular competition.
"[The] biggest challenge this weekend is keeping our focus and work on the things we need to work on to be a better team. I don't want to say that it's more about us, but that's what we need to hone in on this weekend in order to be successful."
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