DURHAM, N.C. – In the hunt for the 11th ACC title in program history, the 15th-ranked Duke volleyball team closes out the regular season against in-state rivals NC State and No. 14 North Carolina in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils take on NC State Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 2 p.m. before facing the Tar Heels Friday, Nov. 29 at 3 p.m.
After splitting a pair of decisions in Florida this past weekend, Duke (25-4, 16-2 ACC) currently sits in first place in the conference standings and holds a one-game lead over No. 16 Florida State and No. 14 North Carolina. The Blue Devils can clinch a share of the ACC title with one victory this week, while two wins would give Duke the league title outright.
Friday’s contest also marks the final regular season home match for seniors Chelsea Cook and Ali McCurdy. Cornerstones in the Blue Devils’ success this season, the duo has led Duke to 88 wins, two NCAA Tournament appearances and an ACC Championship during their careers.
A stalwart in the middle, Cook has knocked down over 200 kills for the second consecutive season and ranks seventh in the league with a .321 hitting percentage. She also leads the team with 116 blocks, averaging 1.18 per frame to rank eighth in the ACC. The ACC’s all-time digs leader, McCurdy has picked up a team-high 481 this season and her 4.91 digs per set average leads the league for the third consecutive season.
Junior Maggie Deichmeister orchestrates a well-balanced offense which is tops in the ACC in both assists per set (13.84) and kills per set (14.94). The setter from Whitehall, Pa., averages an ACC-best 11.42 assists per frame, helping outside hitters Jeme Obeime and Emily Sklar total over 300 kills each. Boasting a .310 hitting percentage, Obeime is one of the most consistent hitters in the ACC, while Sklar drops 3.97 kills per set to rank second in the league.
This past weekend, the Blue Devils extended their winning streak to a season-long 11 matches with a straight-set victory at Miami Oct. 26. But Duke saw its unbeaten streak come to an end Sunday as the Blue Devils fell to the Seminoles in Tallahassee, Fla., marking the team’s first setback since Oct. 13.
NC State (20-10, 11-7 ACC) enters the weekend looking to end a three-match slide after falling to Pitt in its last outing. Junior Dariyan Hopper powers the Wolfpack attack, totaling 331 kills over the course of the season. Hopper tallied 18 kills on .484 hitting in the two squad’s last meeting, which the Wolfpack won 3-1 in Raleigh, N.C., on Oct. 13, 2013. Duke owns a 61-31 advantage in the series, but the Wolfpack came away with two of the last three decisions.
Following a Wednesday showdown at Wake Forest, North Carolina (26-3, 15-3 ACC) heads to Durham for the 99th all-time meeting between the Tobacco Road rivals. A strong defensive team, North Carolina leads the conference in opponent hitting percentage (.160) and trails only the Blue Devils for the league lead in assists per set (13.29 aps) and kills per set (14.31 kps).
Graduate student Jovana Bjelica headlines the Tar Heel offense with 326 kills for the season. Bjelica is one of three Tar Heels with over 200 kills on the season as Leigh Andrew has 219 and Paige Neuenfeldt sits at 201. A sophomore middle blocker, Neuenfeldt ranks second in the ACC with a .368 attack percentage.
UNC leads the all-time series 52-46; however, the Blue Devils held the upper hand in the two teams’ last meeting, a 3-0 Duke win in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Oct. 11. Sklar amassed a match-high 11 kills to pace the Blue Devils’ offense, while the defense accumulated a season-high 14.0 blocks.
After Friday’s match, Duke will await its postseason fate as ESPNU will air the NCAA Selection Show Sunday, Dec. 1 at 9:30 p.m.