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Take of the week: Duke volleyball’s success is tied to Payton Schwantz performing at a high level

Schwantz will be a key part of Duke's gameplay in the shortened season.
Schwantz will be a key part of Duke's gameplay in the shortened season.

After a junior year slump, senior Payton Schwantz has the potential to lead Duke volleyball to success in a limited eight-game season. If her accuracy can return to the level it was at during her sophomore year, she will have the confidence and experience to lead the Duke volleyball team to have a winning season.

Schwantz led the team in kills her sophomore year with a relatively average hitting percentage of 0.223. She also performed well defensively, generating statistics that fell behind only the libero. Her freshman year performance mirrored her 2018-2019 season with a hitting percentage of 0.225, demonstrating the potential she possesses. 

As the team began the 2019-2020 season, all eyes went to Schwantz to perform at similar or higher levels of play compared to her first two years on the team. Schwantz’s injury at the beginning of non-conference play ended up creating difficulties when she returned for ACC play. Hitting accuracy, which fell to 0.149 by the end of the season, remained Schwantz’s biggest obstacle, holding her back from being an even more formidable force on the court. 

On the other hand, she ranked second on the team for kills and digs, earning double-digit kills in 12 matches and double-digit digs in 14 matches. 

Her defensive saves set her apart from other outside hitters on the team. Averaging 3.09 digs per set last season, which was up from 2.48 digs per set her sophomore year, Schwantz has primed the team up to depend on her both offensively and defensively this coming season. She also racked up fourteen aces over the course of the season, ending with a serving ace per set of 0.16, which is among the highest on the team. 

Nothing could prepare Schwantz to have a resurgence season like the year Duke volleyball just had. After battling miscommunications and inconsistency as an entire team last season, redemption is in order, and Schwantz will lead the charge for head coach Jolene Nagel. As the most well-rounded player on the court, Duke volleyball's success is contingent upon the fact that everyone who steps on the court trusts Schwantz completely. The team cannot let balls drop when Schwantz saves them on the baseline like they did against North Carolina last November. 

Her teammates need to trust her skill but also her leadership. As a senior leading a relatively young team, Schwantz has the opportunity to end the era of miscommunication holding Duke volleyball back from success. 

Looking toward this year’s season, Schwantz will have three years under her belt, allowing her to be the deciding factor between a winning and a losing season in 2020. 

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