DURHAM, N.C. – With only three matches remaining in the regular season, the Duke volleyball team will have a chance to secure the program’s 10th ACC Championship this Friday and Saturday, November 19-20, against Virginia Tech and Virginia in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Saturday’s bout with Virginia will also serve as the final home match for Duke’s senior class of Becci Burling, Claire Smalzer and Alex Sall who will all be honored prior to the match. Those three Blue Devils have helped Duke compile a 99-27 overall record with three straight trips to the NCAA Tournament and an ACC Championship in 2008.
The Blue Devils (22-5, 14-3 ACC) own a two-match lead over North Carolina for first place in the conference and need one win to secure at least a share of the 2010 ACC Volleyball Championship. With two victories, Duke will secure the outright league championship regardless of how North Carolina finishes its season.
Duke is on the verge of claiming its fourth ACC Regular Season Championship under 12th-year head coach Jolene and third in the past five years. Duke previously split the 2008 ACC Championship with North Carolina after winning the league outright in 2006 and 2001.
The Blue Devils have a difficult test ahead of them this weekend, however, as Virginia Tech upset the Blue Devils 3-1 in their last meeting on Oct. 14 in Blacksburg, Va. The Hokies (18-9, 9-8 ACC), who come in at No. 35 in the most recent NCAA RPI release, will be looking to showcase their NCAA Tournament at-large credentials on Friday at 4 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Virginia (13-14, 7-10 ACC), meanwhile, has upset a number of ACC powerhouses this season including No. 25 Florida State, Miami and Clemson. Duke handled the Cavaliers 3-0 in the last meeting, but Virginia still remains one of the most dangerous blocking teams in the league.
Duke is coming off of a 3-1 loss at Maryland last Sunday that ended a five-match win streak in which the Blue Devils posted four consecutive 3-0 sweeps. Before the loss, Duke had lost only one set since Oct. 29 thanks to the dominant play of junior setter Kellie Catanach who leads the ACC with 11.24 assists per set.
The Blue Devils have played their best volleyball at home this season, however, and boast an 11-1 record in Cameron Indoor Stadium with the only loss coming at the hands of No. 12 Minnesota. Duke middle blocker Amanda Robertson has been especially dominant on her home court, sporting a .403 hitting percentage and a team-leading 3.31 kills per set on Coach K Court.
Home court advantage has played into the series history with both Virginia Tech and Virginia, as Duke has not lost a home match to the Hokies in the 31-year series history and has not lost to Virginia at home since 2003. Duke has not lost an ACC match inside Cameron Indoor Stadium since Oct. 10, 2009.
Scouting The Hokies
Virginia Tech got the best of Duke in the last meeting, thanks to the duo of Felicia Willoughby and Cara Baarendse who combined for 33 kills and no attack errors. Neither Willoughby and Baarendse have slowed down since then as they rank second and third in the conference in hitting percentage and trail only Duke’s Christiana Gray for the lead in the category.
With seven ACC teams within two matches of each other in the conference standings, the Hokies have plenty on the line on Friday night. With a favorable spot in the NCAA RPI, Virginia Tech will attempt to make a case for an NCAA Tournament bid with remaining bouts at Duke, Wake Forest and at home against Virginia.
Scouting The Cavaliers
Virginia is one of the top blocking teams in the ACC, ranking fourth in the category with 2.35 stops per set. The Cavaliers have held the opposition to a .195 hitting percentage and held the Blue Devils to a .266 clip in the last meeting.
Virginia has a number of playmakers, including sophomore middle blocker Jessica O’Shoney who sports a .356 hitting percentage and 1.07 blocks per set. The Cavaliers also boast one of the ACC’s top attackers in outside hitter Simone Asque, whose 3.99 kills per set ranks second in the ACC. Libero AJ Cushman is also one of the league’s best, averaging 4.93 digs per set to rank second in the league just ahead of Duke freshman Ali McCurdy.
Up Next For The Blue Devils
Following the final homestand of the season, Duke will play at Wake Forest on Tuesday, Nov. 23, in the final match of the season. The Blue Devils will then await their NCAA Postseason fate, which will be announced during the 2010 NCAA Volleyball Tournament Selection Show on Sunday, Nov. 28, at 3 p.m. on ESPNU.