Duke volleyball to open NCAA Tournament at home
By virtue of winning the ACC volleyball championship last Friday, Duke knew it would be heading to the NCAA Tournament.
On Sunday night, when the pairings were announced, the Blue Devils learned they’ll get to stay home when the tournament begins this week.
“That’s the huge thing,” Duke coach Jolene Nagel said. “Having the opportunity to play at home, that’s crucial. That’s the great thing in all this.” Duke was selected as one of 16 national seeds, which means the Blue Devils will host first- and second-round games at Cameron Indoor Stadium beginning Friday. The Blue Devils (27-4) will face College of Charleston (25-5) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. That game follows another first-round game where Georgia (22-9) and American (32-2) play at 5:30 p.m. at Cameron. The winners of those games will meet at 6 p.m. on Saturday at Cameron with a trip to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 on the line.
“These teams that they’ve sent to Durham are really quality teams,” Nagel said. “These teams have really done well and have high RPIs. All four teams are comparable.”
Duke captured its 11th ACC championship with a thrilling five-set comeback win over North Carolina on Friday at Cameron. The Blue Devils are unbeaten in 15 games at their home facility this season.
Nagel said getting to stay home will help her team be as focused as possible on the court and off because it will avoid problems with travel and academics and the end of the semester.
“It will allow us to miss less class and finish up their semester and get ready for finals,” she said.
Even with students on holiday break, a crowd of around 5,500 came to Cameron last Friday to watch Duke and UNC. Nagel said that kind of support will help Duke immensely this weekend.
“We’ve had some great followings through the volleyball community that has helped us get through some really tough matches,” she said.
Having missed the NCAA Tournament last season, Duke is making its seven tournament appearance in the last eight seasons. The Blue Devils last played at home in the tournament in 2010, a year when they advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight.
Duke has been to at least the second round of the tournament in five of the last eight seasons.
The Blue Devils have won 23 of their last 25 games, having put together winning streaks of 10 and 11 games this season.
A two-game winning streak this Friday and Saturday would advance the Blue Devils to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16.
Nagel said the team’s approach, even after such a big-time win over UNC on Friday, is to take care of business against Charleston before looking down the tournament road.
“In the past our team has always been really excited to be in the tournament and have that opportunity,” Nagel said. “This team has a little bit different expectations I think we’re a little bit more businesslike now than we have been in the past. I do think there is a certain business like attitude as we approach this. That’s a really positive thing.”