Who: College of Charleston at No. 14 Duke
What: NCAA Volleyball Tournament
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium (Durham, N.C.)
Records: CofC (25-5, 13-1 in CAA); Duke (27-4, 18-2 in ACC)
College of Charleston middle blocker Emily Neideffer is going home.
Technically, Neideffer grew up in Cary, N.C., earning All-State honors at J.H. Rose High School, which is about a 15-minute drive from the Duke campus.
But make no mistake about it, Neideffer has played in enough tournaments at Cameron Indoor Stadium during her high school and club volleyball career to consider it a personal home-court advantage.
The Cougars (25-5) will take on Duke (27-4) in the opening round of the NCAA volleyball tournament beginning Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Cameron Indoor Stadium. If the fourth-seeded Cougars manage to pull off the upset against the top-seeded Blue Devils, they would face the winner of the Georgia-American match Saturday night.
“Cameron is such a special place, a great place to watch a match or a basketball game,” Neideffer said. “I grew up going there and playing there, so I’m very familiar with the facility. I haven’t played in North Carolina during my college career, so I’m really excited about the match.”
It will be a homecoming for the senior, who expects to have plenty of support from family and friends.
“It’s definitely a homecoming to me,” Neideffer said. “I’ve got a lot of family and friends and former teammates that are coming to watch.”
Neideffer said the extra fan support won’t make her nervous.
“They’re the people I grew up playing in front of,” Neideffer said. “I think that makes it more fun, more exciting. It’s thrilling to know I get to go do what I love to do in front of the people that helped make it possible for me.”
Neideffer was second on the team with 83 blocks 83 and 0.78 per set this season. She was eighth in the Colonial Athletic Association with a .258 hitting percentage and 187 kills. The 5-11 senior tied a career high with seven blocks against Northeastern in the CAA tournament’s championship match.
“Emily brings a tremendous amount of energy and emotion when she’s on the floor,” said College of Charleston coach Jason Kepner. “Good point, bad point, it doesn’t matter, she provides the same high level of energy on a regular basis. That’s been her biggest strength. She’s a versatile player. She doesn’t care about where she’s playing or what her role is, she just wants to win.”
This is the eighth time and second straight year the Cougars have been in the NCAA tournament. A year ago, the Cougars knocked off Miami, 3-2, in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, before falling to Florida, 3-0, in the second round. The Cougars are 2-7 all-time in the NCAA tournament, with their only other victory coming against North Carolina in 2005.
Kepner said victories over Georgia Tech (3-0) and Indiana (3-1) earlier in the season, coupled with the win over Miami in last year’s tournament, should give the Cougars plenty of confidence going into the match with the Blue Devils.
“We know what it takes, we know what we have to do to beat a team as good as Duke,” Kepner said. “I think the match against Miami showed us how consistent we have to be to win a match in the tournament. You can’t just play at a high level for a few points or a set. You have to do it for an entire match.”
The Blue Devils enter the tournament as the tournament’s 16th overall seed, the lowest of the first-round host schools. The Blue Devils, who are making their seventh NCAA appearance in the last eight years, won their 11th ACC championship this season.
Duke is led by Emily Sklar, who averages 3.96 kills per set with a .236 hitting percentage. Middle blocker Jordan Tucker hits a team-high .316 with 96 blocks, while Jeme Obeime averaged 3.23 kills (.291). The Blue Devils average 14.9 kills per set with a .249 attack percentage.
“They play very fast offensively,” Kepner said. “They move the ball, they get quick sets, and look to kill early in any rally.”