DURHAM – Following their best start since 2002, the Duke volleyball team will travel to Michigan to take on host Wolverines and ACC foe North Carolina from September 10-11 at Cliff Keen Arena.
Duke had originally planned to face Michigan State, but due to health and safety protocols within the Spartans, Duke will now face North Carolina in non-conference action. The Blue Devils and Wolverines hit the floor Friday at 7 p.m. on Big Ten Network + ahead of a 2 p.m. game against the Tar Heels.
Duke went undefeated at the Duke Invitational, beating Howard (3-1), Miami [OH] (3-0) and College of Charleston (3-0) over the weekend. Junior Lizzie fleming had 24 kills and just one mistake in three games during the passer Alex springate distributed 102 assists. Defensively, libero Mackenzie cole Duke rhythm with 40 digs.
TAKE A CLOSER LOOK AT THE SERIES
MICHIGAN: Michigan is 4-1 in the all-time series and has won the last four games. When they last met on September 18, 2015 at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Michigan won 3-0. Under the head coach Jolene nagel, the Blue Devils are 0-3.
NORTH CAROLINA: Duke and North Carolina are certainly familiar opponents and Saturday marks the 118th meeting of the series of all time. The two teams first met in 1971 and have met every year since at least once. This weekend in Michigan marks the 16th neutral site game between the two enemies. When they last met in 2020, the two split the series as Duke claimed a 3-1 victory at Carmichael Arena.
SEARCH FOR OPPONENTS
MICHIGAN: Michigan enters the weekend 3-1 and recently won a 3-1 victory over the Navy over the weekend. Offensively, the Wolverines are led by Paige Jones with 61 kills to reach 0.277% while passer Scottee Johnson has 134 assists to his name. Defensively, Michigan has three student-athletes with more than 15 blocks to Jess Robinson (21.0), Jacque Boney (17.0) and May Pertofsky (17.0) while Michigan is ranked No.11. in the country with an average of 3.04 blocks / set.
NORTH CAROLINA: Joe Sagula’s side enter the weekend unbeaten (6-0) with a .277 winning percentage and are led by three with over 50 kills: Mabrey Shaffmaster (73), Nia Robinson (65) and Kaya Merkler (50). Merkler also leads the team in total blocks (27.0) while passer Meghan Neelon has 152 assists in six games.
THE ROKIES HAVE AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT
Beginners Rylie kadel, Rachel richardson and Nikki underwood had an immediate impact during the rotation. Underwood has seen action in all six of Duke’s contests and has four aces and 27 digs to his name. Richardson has 17 kills for a 0.237 hit percentage while Kadel has 18 kills and three blocks at the net, including one in solo.
BACK TO ACTION
Nagel has returned almost his entire offense of the 2020-21 season and is currently led offensively by Lizzie fleming (58 killed), Gracie johnson (53) and Ade Owokoniran (48). Defensively, libero Mackenzie cole has 97 searches during the ferryman Alex springate has collected 215 assists so far in six games. Fleming also leads the team in blocks with 16 (2 solo, 14 assisted).
MILESTONES TO MONITOR
Several Blue Devils are approaching important milestones in their careers: Ade Owokoniran, Payton Schwantz and Alex springate. Owokoniran has 846 wins to date while Schwantz has 839 career digs. Springate has 946 assists as the three look to reach their respective 1,000 career marks.
Duke will host its final tournament with the Duke Classic from September 17-18. The Blue Devils will host Cornell, LIU and NC Central at Cameron Indoor Stadium for six games.
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