DURHAM, N.C. - The 10- time ACC champion Duke volleyball team looks to continue its run of successful seasons in 2012 as the squad begins its quest for its 11th conference title this weekend. The Blue Devils are set to host the Duke Invitational Friday and Saturday, August 24-25 and will open the season with a match against William & Mary Friday at 7 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
2012 Duke Invitational
In addition to the Blue Devils, the 2012 Duke Invitational also features 2011 Horizon League champion UW-Milwaukee, perennial CAA contender William & Mary and a Fairfield team picked to finish first in the MAAC this season. Live stats will be available for all six matches, while the Blue Devil Network will provide live video for Duke's contests against William & Mary and UW-Milwaukee. A complete tournament schedule is listed below.
Friday, August 24
5 p.m. - Fairfield vs. UW-Milwaukee
7 p.m. - Duke vs. William & Mary
Saturday, August 25
10 a.m. - Duke vs. Fairfield
12 p.m. - UW-Milwaukee vs. William & Mary
5 p.m. - Fairfield vs. William & Mary
7 p.m. - Duke vs. UW-Milwaukee
Duke is 31-10 all-time in season openers. This season marks the second consecutive year the Blue Devils have opened with the Duke Invitational. Duke began the 2011 campaign with a 3-1 victory over Furman to kick of last season's tournament.
Home Court Advantage
Bolstered by one of the top attendance rates in the ACC, Duke has performed at its best on its home court in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils boast a 142-24 (.855) home record since 2000, including a 38-match win streak that ran from 2004-07. In 2011, the Blue Devils went 14-2 at home with their only losses coming at the hands of No. 19 San Diego and Miami.
Welcome to Duke
Duke brought in the No. 10 recruiting class in the nation according to PrepVolleyball.com as the Blue Devils added five rookies to their roster. Duke's incoming freshman class represents the Blue Devils' highest rated class and seventh top-30 class since PrepVolleyball began its ranking in 2003. The Class of 2016 includes 5-11 outside hitter Breanna Atkinson, 6-2 middle blocker Elizabeth Campbell, 6-3 outside hitter Emily Sklar, 6-4 rightside hitter/setter Christina Vucich and 5-10 outside hitter/defensive specialist Laura Williams. Three of Duke's five signees were ranked among PrepVolleyball's "Senior Aces," led by Sklar at No. 28, while Vucich (No. 60) and Atkinston (No. 89) also receiving high marks.
Senior middle blocker Christiana Gray and junior libero Ali McCurdy picked up Preseason All-ACC honors as announced by the league last week. The Duke duo both earned All-ACC and honorable mention AVCA All-America honors in 2011 as Gray led the ACC in hitting percentage (.396) and McCurdy broke the school single season digs record (653). Duke was picked to finish fourth in the conference as voted on by the league's head coaches.
Scouting the Tribe
Duke and William & Mary will meet for the first time since 2001 and the 12th time overall Friday night. The Blue Devils hold a 7-4 advantage in the all-time series, but will face a rejuvenated Tribe squad to open the season. William & Mary, which is in the hunt for a record ninth Colonial Athletic Association title, returns all but one starter from last season's 8-18 squad and adds six freshmen, a recruiting class that ranked in the top-five in the region.
Scouting the Stags
Saturday morning's showdown between Duke and Fairfield marks the first meeting in school history for the two programs. The Stags return 10 players from 2011's 20-10 team. Fairfield is picked to finish first in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) according to a poll of the league's head coaches. Sophomore Caitlin Stapleton, the 2011 MAAC Freshman of the Year, and junior Rachel Romansky, the 2011 MAAC Setter of the Year, both earned 2012 preseason all-conference honors.
Scouting the Panthers
Duke and Milwaukee meet for the first time in program history Saturday evening in the final game of the 2012 Duke Invitational. UWM returns four starters and seven letterwinners from last year's team, which won Horizon League regular season and tournament titles while advancing to the NCAA Tournament. A power in the Horizon League, the Panthers have been picked to win the conference again in 2012. Milwaukee seeks its third-straight regular season title and its ninth in the past 10 seasons. Three Panthers - honorable mention All-America Rachel Neuberger, reigning Horizon League Tournament MVP Elizabeth Egererand and Midwest Region Freshman of the Year Kayla Price - earned preseason all-league recognition as well.
Following its opening weekend, the Blue Devils hit the road for the second of four straight tournaments to start the season. Duke travels to the Louisville Invitational next weekend and will take on the host-team Louisville Friday, August 31 before facing both Samford and Marshall Saturday, September 1.