Yet to drop a single game in three conference matches, Duke has proven to be the No. 1 team in the ACC as predicted in preseason polls.
The Blue Devils (13-2, 3-0 in the ACC), are preparing for two back-to-back home matches this weekend against Virginia (6-8, 1-2) and Virginia Tech (11-3, 1-2), and are doing so under the leadership of two veteran players who have demonstrated impressive play early on this season. Senior Rachael Moss and sophomore Kellie Catanach have both been named ACC Players of the Week in the last month.
Moss’s recent recognition is attributed to her 20 kills, 29 digs and 46 attacks in two 3-0 wins against Boston College and Maryland. Catanach won the award the week before Moss after doling out an impressive 136 assists, four service aces and 11 kills during the team’s three matches in the Black and Gold Challenge Sept. 18-19.
And yet, despite their individual successes, both players attribute the awards to the overall effort of their team. As head coach Jolene Nagel put it, the team nature of volleyball turns every individual accolade into praise for the entire team, as no one person can touch the ball three times and get it over.
“I feel like any ACC award is a team award because it’s a team sport and we all deserve it,” Catanach said. “We’re 3-0 and we’ve been playing really well. We’re very calm and we all really enjoy being out there together.... As a collective unit we have more experience.”
Catanach’s leadership style as a setter this season has impressed Nagel. Simultaneously supporting her teammates while expecting them to get the ball to her, Catanach exudes a quiet intensity that demands respect. Catanach exhibits a level of maturity to her coaches that only comes from experience by setting good balls for well-executed hits.
“Kellie does a good job of spreading out the offense and being an anchor for the team,” Moss said. “She really deserved being recognized.”
As for Moss, Nagel sees strength in her ability to play at a high level no matter what the competition. Although some of Duke’s competitors may not be on par with the Blue Devils’ skill, Moss constantly competes at the level she knows she can.
“I tend to focus on our side of the net and [on] our team,” Moss said. “I don’t focus on who we are playing but I focus on my own play and what my team is doing. If you see you need to make changes, then you can do that.”
And it’s not just Moss who has adopted this philosophy. Catanach and sophomore middle blocker Amanda Robertson echoed Moss’s sentiments and stressed the importance of playing their best each match no matter the opponent.
With ACC play only just beginning, Duke knows that any team is capable of an upset. During the matches against the Cavaliers and the Hokies this weekend, the Blue Devils will focus on making sure one of those inevitable league upsets doesn’t happen in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“You can’t take anyone in the ACC for granted,” Robertson said. “You have to play your best each match. We respect all of our opponents the same and we focus on maintaining our level of play. Our team chemistry is really good and this season has been going really well. I hope we can keep that up.”
Duke plays Virginia at 7 p.m. tonight and Virginia Tech at the same time Saturday.
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