DURHAM – After nearly three weeks of pre-season preparation, the 2021 Duke volleyball team are ready for their first game of the season at the Coastal Carolina Invitational in Conway, SC The Blue Devils face host Chanticleers on Friday at 6 p.m. on ESPN + before a 1 p.m. game. against Iowa on Saturday.
Entering her 23rd season at the helm of the program, head coach Jolene nagel added five newcomers to this year’s squad in freshman Ngozi Iloh, Rylie kadel, Rachel richardson and Nikki underwood as well as graduate student Taylor Cole, sister of the current elder Mackenzie cole.
Duke returns 11 team 2020 winners and is led by preseason All-ACC pick Mackenzie cole. The 2020 All-ACC winners Ade Owokoniran and Payton Schwantz also return alongside seniors Lily cooper and Alex springate, juniors Lizzie fleming, Gracie johnson, Camille Nazor and Moorea wood and second year students Georgia Stavrinides and Sydney yap.
THE MACK ATTACK
Mackenzie cole Looking to continue his impressive numbers into the 2021 season. An All-ACC and AVCA All-East Coast Region selection, Cole has recorded 396 digs, 38 aces and 93 assists. She recorded more than 20 digs on six occasions last year and became the 24th Blue Devil to reach the 1,000 digs mark for her career. The Oakdale, NY native placed third in the ACC in recoveries and fourth in aces, where she notched a six-season record in Duke’s win over Virginia in the fall. Cole finished his third year with the Blue Devils with 1,237 career digs to rank 12th in Duke history.
Owokoniran continued to be a dominant attacking force for the Blue Devils last year as she racked up 243 kills in the team lead. As a six-rotation player for most of the season, Owokoniran also did the job on the defensive end. She added 50 blocks in total, with Duke averaging 2.24 blocks / set to place sixth in the conference and tallied 110 digs in the back row. She’s knocked down more than 15 eliminations on five occasions, including 19, a season-high, in Duke’s setback at No. 22 Notre Dame. The Raleigh, NC native also collected three doubles-doubles during the fall season.
Schwantz was one of Duke’s attacking attackers during his tenure as the Blue Devil. She struggled with a few injuries during the 2020-21 season and continued to be a solid option for Duke. Although he missed a few games, Schwantz knocked down 160 kills for a 0.217 winning percentage. Defensively, the Frisco, Texas native tallied 152 digs to place third on the team and added 23 blocks at 5-11. On March 22, 2021, Schwantz became the 26th Blue Devil to reach the 1,000-kill plateau as she collected 10 eliminations and no errors in Duke’s sweep over Boston College. To date, Schwantz has 1,025 career victories.
BACK TO ACTION
Nagel returns nearly all of his 2020-21 season offense, led by Owokoniran (243 kills), Johnson (223 eliminations) and Schwantz (160 eliminations). Duke’s defense is also set to succeed this season, led by 2021 All-ACC Libero Cole with 396 digs. The Blue Devils return the two passer at Nazor and Springate and their best blockers are back in action at Cooper, Fleming and Stavrinides.
Following this weekend in South Carolina, the Blue Devils will open the 2021 season at home against Elon on Tuesday, August 31 at 6:30 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
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