After dropping five matches early in conference play, the Blue Devils looked in disarray. 

But Duke steadied the ship by taking care of business in two games in Virginia last weekend, and the Blue Devils may finally be fitting the pieces together in the heart of their conference slate.

Duke will travel to Atlanta Friday to face off against Georgia Tech at O’Keefe Gymnasium before continuing its road campaign Saturday in Clemson, S.C., against Clemson at Jervey Gym. The Blue Devils snapped a four-match skid last week with back-to-back wins and will look to build their conference resume behind aggressive attacks from freshman Payton Schwantz and senior Cadie Bates.

“It's always a challenge to get wins on the road in the ACC, and to get them is really wonderful,” Duke head coach Jolene Nagel said. “With this team, which has had some adjustments due to injuries, it helps us get into more of a rhythm with some confidence.”

For the Blue Devils (13-8, 5-5 in the ACC), their contest against the Yellow Jackets should be the most challenging of the weekend.

Georgia Tech (10-11, 5-5) is coming off two wins of its own, having cleaned through Syracuse 3-1 and Boston College 3-0. Leading the way for the Yellow Jackets is senior outside hitter Gabriela Stavnetchei, who notched a staggering 28 kills in just four sets against the Orange and averages 4.1 kills per set.

Stavnetchei has also proven to be tough to get past defensively, averaging 2.9 digs per set and holding the second-highest number of digs on her team this season. Coupled with freshman defensive specialist Sam Knapp, Georgia Tech could stand to force the Blue Devils to longer rallies—which an explosive team like Duke has had trouble with in the past.

However, while the Yellow Jackets may be tough to catch off guard in the backcourt, they leave something to be desired at the net. Georgia Tech only averages 1.9 blocks per set—a weakness that the Blue Devils’ spike-heavy scorers Schwantz and Bates can capitalize on. When the two teams played in September, Duke played a near-perfect game and hit better than .400 in a 3-0 sweep.

“Georgia Tech is playing well,” Nagel said. “They've changed some things since the last time we've played them, and they're certainly really good at home. They have a great home court advantage and environment and they make the most of that. It's never easy to play them in Atlanta.”

Although Georgia Tech may prove to be a tough matchup going into this weekend, Duke should have an easier time against the Tigers.

Clemson (6-16, 1-9) has struggled this season, sitting firmly in the second-to-last slot of ACC rankings ahead of the Cavaliers—who have yet to topple a conference opponent. Apart from their 3-0 win against an anemic Boston College team, the Tigers have only won two sets in conference playy. In fact, the Blue Devils have not dropped a set to Clemson since their 3-1 victory against the Tigers in 2013.

The only real firepower Clemson has to work with is from sophomore outside hitter Kaylin Korte, who stands at 3.3 kills per set. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Korte and defensive specialist Madi Howell have been the only two players picking up any defensive slack with more than two digs per set. Against a team with multiple scoring threats like Duke, Clemson will struggle to keep the prolific offense at bay.

For the Blue Devils, the possibility of two more conference road wins could not come at a better time. After their skid in conference play despite frustratingly close losses, Duke is establishing to assert itself in the top half of the ACC.

Although Schwantz and Bates lead the Blue Devils in kills this season, what has proven to be key for Duke’s turnaround has been sophomore Samantha Amos and junior Jessi Bartholomew's recent offensive surge. Amos notched a career-high 18 kills against the Hokies, and Bartholomew has put down double-digit kills in her past three games, giving the Blue Devils a more varied attack. If Duke solidifies its offense to be a consistent multi-pronged threat, the Blue Devils may finally have a shot at making a run in the second half of the ACC schedule.

“The great thing is [Sam] was able to be a great offensive threat for us against Virginia Tech,” Nagel said. “Jessi Bartholomew did as well. We need all of our people to be producing offensively for us out there and hopefully we'll have that going into the weekend.”