DURHAM, N.C. – With trips to nearby North Carolina and NC State on the docket, the Duke volleyball team puts its nine-match winning streak on the line this weekend. The Blue Devils make the short journey to Chapel Hill Friday to face the Tar Heels, ranked 10th in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll, before venturing to Raleigh Sunday to battle the Wolfpack.
Duke (13-2, 4-0 ACC) and North Carolina (15-0, 4-0 ACC) square off Friday at 7 p.m., from UNC’s Carmichael Arena. The match will also air live on ESPN3 (link). The Blue Devils then take the court against NC State (12-4, 3-1 ACC) Sunday at 2 p.m., from the Wolfpack’s Reynolds Coliseum.
Since falling to then-No. 4 Minnesota Sept. 7, Duke has rattled off nine straight victories, including a 3-0 win over Wake Forest in its last outing. The Blue Devils feature one of the nation’s most balanced offenses as Duke is one of just five teams with three players averaging over 3.00 kills per set. The Blue Devils lead the ACC and rank second nationally with a 15.48 kills per set average.
Sophomore outside hitter Emily Sklar garnered ACC Player of the Week honors Monday after totaling 35 kills in two matches this past week. Sklar leads the Blue Devils with 178 kills this season, averaging 3.96 per game. Complementing Sklar’s production are junior outside Jeme Obeime and rightside hitter Elizabeth Campbell, who have amassed 168 and 130 kills, respectively.
A key to Duke’s success this season is junior setter Maggie Deichmeister, who averages 11.40 assists per set to rank 20th nationally. Deichmeister has also been strong defensively, totaling 124 digs to trail only senior libero Ali McCurdy for the team lead.
McCurdy, along with freshman defensive specialist Sasha Karelov, anchors the Duke back court. McCurdy leads the team with 218 digs and ranks second nationally among active players with 2,163 career digs. The Tampa, Fla., native, who also leads Duke with 17 service aces, is just 38 digs shy of breaking the school record (2,200) set by Jenny Shull in 2007.
At 15-0, North Carolina is enjoying the best start in program history. Outside Jovana Bjelica has amassed 157 kills to pace the Tar Heel offense, which averages 14.53 kills per set to rank second in the ACC and 14th in the nation. Setters Jordyn Schabl and Abigail Curry also target outside Leigh Andrew and rightside hitter Kayla Berringer, who have combined for 238 kills.
North Carolina’s defense is tops in the ACC in blocks per set (2.86)with middles Paige Neuenfeldt and Victoria McPherson both averaging over a block per game.
A historically even series, the Tar Heels hold a slight edge over the Blue Devils, 53-49, in program history. Duke had won 8-of-10 meetings from 2006-11, but North Carolina was able to sweep this past season’s home-and-home series.
Winners of three straight, NC State returns to Raleigh following road victories at Boston College and Syracuse. The Wolfpack take on Wake Forest Friday evening prior to Sunday’s showdown with Duke.
Four NC State players have topped 100 kills this season, led by outside Dariyan Hopper with 171. In addition to contributing 111 kills, middle Brie Merriwether ranks fifth in the ACC, averaging 1.26 blocks per game.
The Blue Devils own a 61-30 advantage in the all-time series against the Wolfpack. The two teams split a home-and-home series a year ago with NC State earning a four-set victory in Raleigh and Duke taking a five-set decision at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke’s current road swing continues next weekend with trips to Georgia Tech and Clemson on the calendar. The Blue Devils play the Yellow Jackets Friday in Atlanta before a Sunday matchup in Clemson, S.C., against the Tigers.