One thing's for sure: Duke is excited.
With the close, competitive and intense competition that has defined ACC volleyball this season, the Blue Devils know any given night can belong to any given team. The incredibly close standings have created a mentality within the conference that pumps up every team. As it gets later in the season, every match for the top eight teams is increasingly significant.
Duke (18-7, 9-4 in the ACC) plays first-place Clemson (18-6, 10-3) and second-place Georgia Tech (17-6, 9-4) Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium, and the Blue Devils know the importance of both matches-they both have heady implications in ACC standings.
"Both of the teams are extremely competitive, which makes them extremely exciting to play and get ready to play," senior Sue Carls said. "We just need to take care of all the little things we can control, because when we are consistent, we are a very exciting team to watch."
After a disappointing loss against the Tigers earlier in the season in which Duke couldn't stop All-American Danielle Hepburn, the Blue Devils understand the importance of not forgetting about the entirety of Clemson's strong squad. And although Duke beat Georgia Tech 3-2 on the road in the teams' first match, the Blue Devils go into this contest seeing themselves as a more mature team that is able to handle more of the situations that come its way.
"[Hepburn] is a very talented, physical player who puts up a nice block," head coach Jolene Nagel said. "But it's just not her on that team. That team has a lot of talent, and their setter does a good job of distributing the ball. They are a formidable opponent, and we have to be ready to compete."
"Being a young team this year, we really have matured a lot since the beginning of the season," Carls said. "I think that's going to help us a lot this weekend against Clemson, as well as Georgia Tech. I feel like we have improved in our skill level and level of play a lot."
But for Nagel and the Blue Devils, it's all about the competition-and with Clemson and Georgia Tech coming to Cameron this weekend, the team couldn't ask for more challenging opponents.
Although Duke's players are unique in their own ways, they all share an overwhelming need to compete at a high level-and that factor could help them in this weekend's matches.
"We are in the hunt, and the team is excited about it," Nagel said. "We compete and we play because our team enjoys it, and that's also why we all came to Duke."
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.