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Courtesy: Duke Photography
Volleyball Opens Preseason Practice Saturday
Sunday 08/09/2014  -  Duke Sports Information
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DURHAM, N.C. – The 2013 ACC champion Duke volleyball team begins preparations for its title defense Saturday, taking the court for the first day of preseason practice. The Blue Devils open the 2014 campaign with the Duke Invitational Aug. 29-30 in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
 
Duke (28-5, 18-2 ACC) returns 11 letterwinners from this past season’s squad which advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the ACC-leading 18th time in program history. The Blue Devils captured the 2013 ACC Championship and the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in thrilling fashion, rallying for a 3-2 decision over then-No. 14 North Carolina in the regular season finale to avoid a three-way tie with UNC and Florida State for the conference crown.
 
The Blue Devils look to replace four letterwinners from the 2013 team, including three-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year Ali McCurdy and All-ACC pick Chelsea Cook. Head coach Jolene Nagel, now in her 16th season at the helm of the program, believes the team is up to the task as the group works to assimilate four freshmen in outside hitter Cadie Bates, defensive specialist Nicole Elattrache, middle blocker Anna Kropf and setter Emma Paradiso.
 
Nagel garnered both ACC Coach of the Year and AVCA East Coast Region Coach of the Year honors in 2013, adding to her already impressive resume. In 15 seasons under Nagel’s guidance, the Blue Devils have advanced to 11 NCAA Tournaments and won 20 or more matches 12 times.
 
One of the top offenses in both the ACC and the nation a season ago, the Blue Devils bring back three AVCA All-Americans in outside hitters Emily Sklar and Jeme Obeime as well as setter Maggie Deichmeister. Duke led the ACC and ranked ninth nationally in both kills per set and assists per set this past season.
 
Sklar became the only sophomore in Duke history to take home ACC Player of the Year honors, leading the team with 405 kills. The San Jose, Calif., native was the first Blue Devil to knock down over 400 kills in a single season since Rachael Moss in 2008. Sklar put down 10 or more kills in 26 contests, including 23 straight to end the season.
 
An All-ACC and AVCA All-East Coast Region honoree, Obeime took home All-America honors over totaling a career-best 376 kills, marking her second straight season with 300 or more kills. Obeime averaged over 3.30 kills per set while posting a career-best .394 hitting percentage.
 
Deichmeister garnered her first All-America accolades in 2013 after directing a potent Duke offense that led the league in both kills per set and assists per set. The Whitehall, Pa., native finished the regular season ranked first in the conference and 17th nationally in assists per game.
 
Another key piece to the Duke roster is sophomore middle blocker Jordan Tucker. The Prairie Village, Kan., native picked up All-ACC Freshman Team accolades in 2013 after ranking second on the team with 109 blocks. Tucker knocked down 222 kills while also leading the team and ranking ninth in the league with a .308 hitting percentage.
 
Sophomore defensive specialist/libero Sasha Karelov is one of five returning starters set to take the court in 2014. As a freshman, Karelov helped anchor the Duke defense, totaling 265 digs, second only to McCurdy.
Duke begins its 29-match regular season schedule Friday, Aug. 29 against North Florida. The 2014 slate pits 11-time ACC Champion Duke against 2013 NCAA Tournament teams Michigan, Michigan State, Stanford and Oklahoma in non-conference action as well as Florida State, North Carolina, Miami and Louisville during the 18-game ACC schedule.
 
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