UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – For the third time in program history, the Duke volleyball team will play in the NCAA Volleyball Championship Sweet 16 this Friday, Dec. 11, against Missouri in Rec Hall on the campus of Penn State University.
Friday’s match is available via video stream on NCAA.com. If Duke advances to Saturday’s Regional Final, the Blue Devils will play the winner of Penn State and Oklahoma on ESPNU.
The Blue Devils (26-6, 16-4 ACC) drew the No. 12 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and swept High Point 3-0 in the first round before gutting out a 3-2 win over Ohio in round two. Both of those wins came on Coach K Court in Cameron Indoor Stadium where Duke finished the season with a 15-1 record.
Duke is the ACC’s only remaining team. The ACC Champion Blue Devils, who are coached by ACC and East Region Coach of the Year Jolene Nagel, have never played Missouri. The Tigers, who upset No. 5-seeded Northern Iowa in the NCAA First Round, are one of the nation’s top offensive teams and rank 22nd in the country in kills per set and 21st in assists per set.
Missouri’s offense is directed by freshman setter Molly Kreklow, who was named the AVCA Central Region Freshman of the Year after averaging 11.70 assists and 2.31 digs in her inaugural season. She has one of the Big 12’s best weapons in senior outside hitter Paola Ampudia, whose 4.10 kills per set rank third in the conference. Tigers libero Caitlyn Vann has also come on strong in the tournament and leads all players with 59 digs through the first two rounds.
Duke, however, also has a roster full of stars including ACC Player of the Year Kellie Catanach and All-ACC selections Becci Burling, Amanda Robertson, Christiana Gray and Ali McCurdy. Those five and fellow starters Claire Smalzer and Sophia Dunworth make up the core of a Duke team that earned a national seed for the first time in school history.
And while Missouri enters Friday’s match as one of the nation’s best offensive squads, Duke has the potential to match the Tigers point-for-point. Under the direction of Catanach, who is the seventh Duke player to earn ACC Player of the Year honors, Duke averages 14.17 kills per set which ranks 22nd nationally. Catanach has allowed four of her hitters to average over 2.00 kills including Burling, who leads the team with 3.02 kills per set, and Dunworth, who has come on strong with a team-high 23 kills in Duke’s two NCAA Tournament matches. Additionally, Duke boasts the ACC’s top attacking middle blocker in Gray, whose .391 hitting percentage led the conference, and one of the most well-rounded right side hitters in Robertson, who averages 2.83 kills, 2.44 digs and 0.49 blocks.
If Duke defeats Missouri, the Blue Devils will face the winner of Penn State and Oklahoma in the NCAA Regional Final in University Park, Pa. Duke has advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight only one time in program history when the 1993 squad defeated Louisville and Kentucky in the first two rounds before falling 3-0 to Texas.