Captain and starting libero Mackenzie Cole is going to be surrounded by a familiar face this season.
And that person will have her same last name.
Her older sister, Taylor Cole, joined the team as an outside hitter and defensive specialist after transferring as a graduate student this past offseason.
“Getting to play with my sister one last time is an insane privilege. She is the best teammate I have ever played with,” Taylor said in an interview with The Chronicle. “I knew that I was coming into an environment that would be great for me.”
Several other factors also brought Taylor to Duke for one final season. She has always wanted to pursue a law degree, so the dual-degree program at the Sanford School of Public Policy presented the perfect opportunity to earn a Masters in Public Policy as well as her J.D. from the UNC School of Law.
And she’ll get to do all that alongside Mackenzie.
“It has been really, really cool, especially because she knew the girls before she even got here from visits,” Mackenzie said of having her sister on the team. “She was able to come in and, from my view, transition very smoothly, which can be seen in her performance.”
The entire Cole family visited last weekend as the sisters finished up preseason. The Cole sisters are from Oakdale, N.Y., where they both played on the volleyball team for Connetquot High School.
“We played together all through high school and before high school, so being teammates is not a new thing,” Mackenzie said. “But, it was really special for our parents to watch us play together again, especially at such a high level.”
Last week, Mackenzie earned a spot as the only defensive specialist/libero on the Preseason All-ACC list. Mackenzie earned spots on All-ACC, AVCA All-East Coast Region and All-ACC Academic teams last season and going into her final year, she currently ranks 12th in program history for number of digs. She has 1,000 digs in her career and has averaged 412 digs per season the past three years.
In her undergraduate time at Iona, Taylor played four years as the defensive specialist with a career total of 639 digs. She was also named MCAA All-Academic Team at Iona three years in a row and CoSIDA All-American District First team in 2019.
Mackenzie and Taylor have had success from the service line in their careers. Taylor racked up 106 aces at Iona, while Mackenzie sits close behind with 86 in one less year of attempts. A powerful server has the dangerous potential to maintain the momentum shift that comes after a big hit or block, and now Duke can rely on the Cole sisters' abilities from the service line to take over games. The Blue Devils have also struggled with service errors in the past, which makes Taylor an asset that could put Duke on the trajectory of a winning season.
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"We're excited to have a graduate student and another Cole join us for our 2021 season," head coach Jolene Nagel said in a GoDuke article at the time of Taylor's transfer. "We have benefited greatly from having a graduate student on our team the past three years. Taylor will bring volleyball IQ, good culture, championship experience, strong serving and a very competitive mindset to our team. Having sisters Taylor and Mackenzie Cole, from a volleyball family, together at Duke for a season, will be fun to experience and see in action on the court!"
Going into the Coastal Carolina Invitational, the Cole sisters know what they have to do. Their goals, and the goals of the team, surround the journey to the NCAA tournament. Both Mackenzie and Taylor discussed the “obsession” the Blue Devils have decided to adopt to ensure they make it past the regular season.
“Getting to the tournament starts with game one,” Taylor said.