LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- No. 14 Duke opened the USC Classic with a 3-0 (30-13, 30-15, 30-26) win over Mercer Friday afternoon in the Galen Center.
Duke (4-0) finished with a season-high .349 hitting percentage while holding the Bears to a mark of .069. The Blue Devils surrendered just 28 kills to Mercer (1-2) while racking up 49 of their own in addition to eight total blocks.
Juniors Sue Carls and Aana Wherry paced Duke with 11 kills apiece, while both turned in hitting percentages of over .400, including Carls’ match-high and career-high .667 mark. Both outside hitters recorded two blocks apiece while Wherry led the team with 12.5 total points and recorded a career-high in kills.
Junior Jordan Norman was in on six of Duke’s 10 blocks while also adding seven kills for a .583 attack percentage. Senior libero Jenny Shull finished with 13 digs and two service aces to match freshman Claire Smalzer and sophomore Brittany Staffeil for the most aces during the three-game bout.
Duke blew past the Bears 30-13 in game one after totaling a .444 collective hitting percentage in the opening frame. Norman and Carls combined for eight kills, while Carrie DeMange and Juliana Traut added three apiece. Both Norman and Carls added two assisted blocks each, as Mercer failed to overcome a -.160 hitting percentage in game one.
Game two saw a familiar start, as Duke jumped out to a 16-3 lead before putting Mercer away 30-15 for a 2-0 advantage heading into game three. Carls stayed hot through game two and racked up five more kills to maintain a .727 hitting percentage through both games. Burling jumped into the fray off the bench and was successful in eight of her 10 attacks, while Falcone also saw her first minutes of the afternoon and contributed 10 assists.
Mercer rebounded for a close game three, but could not mount a comeback as Duke emerged 30-26 for the three-game sweep. Duke jumped out to a 4-0 lead before Mercer scored its first point, but the Bears battled back from a seven-point deficit to tie the score at 21-21. The Blue Devils then rallied for three straight points before Mercer called a timeout and answered with two of their own to come within one. Duke quickly put to rest any notion of a comeback however, with a 6-3 run that included two kills and a block by Wherry. Wherry totaled seven kills in game three while Norman took care of the defense and posted four blocks, including one solo stop.
Duke will continue play this evening with a bout against No. 4 Southern Cal at 7 p.m. Pacific Time (10 p.m. Eastern Time). Duke will then complete the USC Classic with a contest against Cal State Northridge on Saturday at 11 a.m. Pacific (2 p.m. Eastern).