Senior Claire Smalzer moved into third place on Duke's all-time digs list last weekend.
Photo Courtesy: Duke Photography
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DURHAM, N.C. – With the 2010 ACC Championship already secured, the Duke volleyball team will play its final regular season match this Tuesday, Nov. 23, at Wake Forest at 7 p.m.
The Blue Devils (24-5, 16-3 ACC), who clinched the ACC Volleyball Championship with wins over Virginia Tech and Virginia last weekend, need one more win to record what would be their school-record fifth consecutive 25-win season. Duke swept Wake Forest 3-0 in the last meeting in Durham, N.C., and will be looking for their eighth ACC series sweep of the year on Tuesday.
Duke, which was picked to win the ACC alongside Florida State in the Preseason Coaches Poll, captured its third ACC crown in the past five seasons last Friday. With a 3-1 win over Virginia Tech, the Blue Devils also earned the ACC’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid and are guaranteed a spot in their school-record sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament.
Head coach Jolene Nagel has fielded one of her most talented teams in years, as the Blue Devils average 14.30 kills per set and lead the ACC in opponent hitting percentage. Led by third-year setter Kellie Catanach, the Blue Devils rank among the top three in the conference in hitting percentage (.254), kill per set and assists per set (13.32).
Catanach, who is sporting an ACC-leading and career-best 11.36 assists per set, has emerged as one of the top dual threats in the ACC. In addition to earning the title of best setter in the conference, Catanach is one of Duke’s best defensive players with 2.14 digs and 0.60 blocks. Her 11 double-doubles lead the team, and she is also tied for the team lead with 24 service aces.
Catanach has also benefited from one of the most well-rounded supporting casts in the ACC. Headlined by top attacker Becci Burling, who leads the team with a career-high 355 kills, Duke is the only team in the ACC with five starters averaging over 2.00 kills per set. Along with Burling, Sophia Dunworth (2.93), Amanda Robertson (2.85), Christiana Gray (2.20) and Claire Smalzer (2.06) have all topped 200 kills on the year.
The Blue Devils are just as savvy on the defensive end and have held opponents to the lowest hitting percentage in the league. Twenty of Duke’s 29 opponents have hit under .200, while only two have eclipsed the .300 mark. The defensive charge is led by freshman libero Ali McCurdy, who this season has set a Duke freshman digs record with 538 pickups. The 5-foot-7 native of Tampa, Fla., ranks second in the ACC with 4.98 digs per set.
Scouting The Demon Deacons Wake Forest (18-12, 10-9 ACC) continues to improve under sixth-year head coach Heather Kahl Holmes, and this season is one of the toughest teams to beat on its home court. The Demon Deacons are 10-5 in Reynolds Gym this season with home victories over Virginia Tech and Clemson in the past four weeks.
The Deacs are one of the top defensive teams in the ACC with the third-lowest opponent hitting percentage in the ACC, though the Blue Devils routed them with a .317 clip in the last meeting. Led by middle blockers Carlin Salmon and Andrea Beck, Wake Forest averages 2.25 blocks per set while ranking in the top half of the conference in both digs and blocks per set.
Duke will also have its work cut out in the serving game where Wake Forest has amassed 1.18 service aces per set. Wake Forest is one of only three teams in the ACC with two players among the league’s top 10 in service aces as Kristen White and Kadijah Fornah are tied for sixth place with 0.29 aces per set.
Up Next For Duke With the NCAA automatic bid already secured, the Blue Devils will learn their postseason assignment on Sunday, Nov. 28, during the 2010 NCAA Volleyball Selection Show. The program will air from 3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. on ESPN News.