As the saying goes, the more you know the more you know.
With fall sports underway, the Blue Zone will give you a weekly summary of a key component of a particular Duke team. This week, let's take a look at Duke volleyball star Payton Schwantz helping the Blue Devils win their first two matches.
Payton Schwantz led Duke to two thrilling wins against N.C. State last week, proving her crucial role in a successful 2020 season.
With nine kills on Wednesday and 14 kills on Saturday, Schwantz dominated offensively. The increase in kills over the course of the week show that as Schwantz returns to the rhythm of playing competitive matches, she will serve as the go-to player for the Blue Devils. Totaling 70 hitting attempts with only seven errors thus far proves that Duke trusts, and wants, Schwantz to swing. Schwantz showed N.C. State her consistency on Saturday, with only two errors despite playing almost every point.
Schwantz thrives in the back court too. In the last two matches, she has averaged 2.67 digs per set, which ranks third only behind libero Mackenzie Cole and setter Alex Springate. Schwantz’s passing abilities identify her as a strong player no matter where she is on the court, something that Duke will likely rely on throughout the season.
Three years of experience on the court gives Schwantz a confidence that sets her apart from all the players on the team. It is clear that Schwantz will step up offensively as well as defensively, but more importantly, Schwantz’s presence on the team will bring the necessary energy to maintain momentum and have fun.
As a team, Duke struggled to maintain momentum after winning sets last season. While this tendency began to creep in against the Wolf Pack, the Blue Devils regained focus and finished off strong. While team chemistry certainly plays a role in focus, a player like Schwantz running the court allows the team to build momentum back up much faster.
Last season’s injuries prevented Schwantz from reaching her full potential, despite playing almost every game. Schwantz still ended the 2019 season ranked second on the team in kills and in digs. Ranking that highly while recovering from injury demonstrates that Schwantz will be an unstoppable force this year.
Now that the team has overcome their communication issues through an intense focus on team chemistry during the offseason, Schwantz will likely be the final piece necessary to a rebound season like no other for the Blue Devils. A winning season is fully within reach for Duke with Schwantz continuing the high level of play she exhibited in the first two matches.
Moral of the story: When in doubt, get the ball to Schwantz.
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