DURHAM, N.C. - After starting the 2012 campaign with three sweeps at the Duke Invitational, the Duke volleyball team will face its first road test of the season as the Blue Devils travel to the Cardinal Classic for three matches this weekend. Duke is set to face host-team Louisville at 7:30 p.m. Friday, August 31 at the KFC Yum! Center. Saturday will pit the Blue Devils against Samford at 1:30 p.m. and Marshall at 5 p.m.
Duke defeated William & Mary 3-0, Fairfield 3-0 and UW-Milwaukee 3-0 in Cameron Indoor Stadium last weekend and did not drop a single set, marking the first time the Blue Devils began a season with three sweeps since 2002. Freshman Emily Sklar led Duke with 33 kills for the tournament. The 6-2 outside hitter hit .333 over her first three matches and averaged 3.67 kills per set, earning ACC Freshman of the Week and Ronald McDonald House Charities Duke Student-Athlete of the Week honors for her performance.
Sklar is a new target for a Duke offense that returned three starters from a season ago, including All-ACC and honorable mention AVCA All-America honorees Ali McCurdy and Christiana Gray. McCurdy posted 52 digs at the Duke Invitational, averaging 5.78 digs per set to lead the ACC. Gray hit .455 with 18 kills and 12 blocks, while junior Chelsea Cook led the team with 13 blocks while also hitting .429 with 25 kills.
Setters Kelsey Williams, Christina Vucich and Maggie Deichmeister combined for 133 assists last weekend, and Duke currently leads the lead in assists per set (14.78). Vucich dished out a team-high 49 assists at the Duke invitational, followed closely by Williams with 44.
2012 Cardinal Classic Information
Louisville will host Duke, Samford and Marshall for the six-match Cardinal Classic this weekend. Gametracker coverage is available for all six matches, while live video coverage of Friday's match is available through www.uoflsports.com. A complete tournament schedule is listed below.
Friday, August 31
5 p.m. - Samford vs. Marshall
7:30 p.m. - Duke vs. Lousville
Saturday, September 1
11 a.m. - Marshall vs. Louisville
1:30 p.m. - Duke vs. Samford
5 p.m. - Duke vs. Marshall
7:30 p.m. - Samford vs. Louisville
Scouting the Cardinals
Louisville, the reigning BIG EAST regular season champions, enters Friday's match with a 3-1 overall record following a 3-1 victory over No. 10 Kentucky Wednesday evening. The Cardinals' lone loss of the season came against No. 3 Penn State, while Louisville also owns wins over Western Kentucky and Morehead State. The Cardinals are led by 2011 BIG EAST Player of the Year Lola Arslanbekova, who currently averages 4.53 kills per set.
Scouting the Bulldogs
Samford returned every starter and all but one player from last season's squad, which captured the school's first Southern Conference Championship. The Bulldogs were once again picked to win the conference in 2012, but opened the season with three losses at the Hurricane Invitational in Coral Gables, Fla., falling to Rutgers, Ole Miss and Miami. 2011 All-SoCon honoree Lauren Hutchinson led the Bulldogs with 39 kills on the weekend, while setter Casey Garver added 134 assists and libero Alexis Bauer totaled 53 digs.
Scouting the Herd
Marshall began the 2012 campaign with a 3-0 record at the Thunder Invitational last weekend, posting wins over Wright State, IUPUI and Miami (Ohio). Sophomore setter Sammie Bane earned Conference USA Setter of the Week accolades after she averaged 10.46 assists per set for the tournament. Katy Schad paced the offense with 50 kills, an average of 3.85 kills per set, followed closely by Lauren Legge (39 kills) and Sacha Byousmcconnell (31 kills).
The Blue Devils return home next weekend to host the Duke Classic at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke will face Elon Friday, September 7 at 7 p.m., before taking on east Carolina and Northeastern Saturday, September 8 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., respectively.