LOS ANGELES, Calif. – No. 14 Duke flirted with an upset over No. 4 Southern Cal at the USC Classic Friday evening, but dropped a hard-fought 3-2 (26-30, 30-26, 30-20, 24-30, 19-17) loss to the Trojans on their home court at the Galen Center.
Duke (4-1) set the tone early with a game one victory, but USC (5-0) responded with two straight victories in games two and three. Duke would not go easily, however, and fought back from an early four-point deficit in game four to retake the lead and force the match to game five. The deciding game saw a close battle between the teams, as USC jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but could not put Duke away after the Blue Devils rallied to tie the score at 11-11. The teams then continued to trade points until the Trojans gained a slight upper hand and held on for the 19-17 game five victory.
Duke totaled a season-high 85 kills for a .276 collective hitting percentage, while also turning in 10 blocks, already the second time this season that Duke has reached double-digits in the category.
Senior Carrie DeMange matched a career-high with 32 kills and turned a hitting percentage above .350 for the second time this season. She also led the squad with 60 attacks and contributed three of Duke’s 10 blocks.
Senior setter Ali Hausfeld also neared a career-high with 72 assists, falling just three shy of her previous mark. With 11 digs, Hausfeld also recorded her fourth double-double of the season. Jourdan Norman continued her dominance at the net, helping out on six blocks while tallying 11 kills and a team-high .421 hitting percentage. Norman has 16 blocks over her last three matches, including six in each match at the USC Classic.
Senior libero Jenny Shull paced the defense with 27 digs, putting her in triple digits for the season and within 151 of typing Duke’s all-time record. Sophomore and 2006 ACC and East Region Freshman of the Year Rachael Moss turned in a double-double after slamming 19 kills and racking up 16 digs. Freshman Claire Smalzer also added three service aces, while junior Sue Carls posted double-digit kills for the third straight match.
Defense was key for Duke in game one, as the Blue Devils held the Trojans to a .077 hitting percentage and 11 kills. Game one featured 10 tied scores and six total lead changes, though the Blue Devils would not trail after jumping ahead 16-15 midway through the first frame. Duke spread the offense around in game one, as Carls led the squad with five kills, while DeMange added four and Juliana Traut, Moss, Hausfeld and Norman each added at least two. Norman was in on all three of Duke’s blocks during the game while Hausfeld turned in 14 assists.
Game two saw a different USC squad take the floor, as the Trojans hit .321 as a squad, thanks in part to Asia Kaczor’s seven kills and .500 clip. USC setter Taylor Carico found her groove and dished out 21 assists, as USC out-blocked Duke four to two.
Game three was no different as USC improved to a .372 hitting percentage while holding Duke to a .224 mark. USC could do little with DeMange, however, as the Blue Devil middle blocker was 6-of-10 attacking in game three to pace the Blue Devils. Duke could not overcome the offensive efforts of Kaczor or Diane Copenhangen, however, as the duo combined for 10 kills.
Duke came out with renewed energy in game four and rebounded from an early deficit to claim a 24-30 victory and force the match to game five. The Blue Devils overcame their offensive showing from game three and put up a match-high .382 mark in the fourth frame, which was enough to outpace USC’s .294 mark. After falling behind 7-2 early in game four, Duke rallied with an 11-6 run to take the lead at 14-13. A steady offensive by Duke would maintain the lead before three straight kills from DeMange put the blue Devils ahead by three. DeMange would add two more kills before the game ended, giving her eight in the fourth frame.
In game five, USC started to make a run for the match point, but Duke fought back to tie the game at 11-11. DeMange then got hot and recorded four consecutive kills for Duke to keep them in the hunt for the upset. Trailing 16-15, Norman tied the score with another kill before USC temporarily reclaimed the lead on a kill by Kaczor. Moss then tied the score again – for the seventh time in the fifth frame – before USC held on for the win with two straight points.
“Our staff couldn’t be more proud of the way our team competed last night in such an adverse environment,” head coach Jolene Nagel said. “We showed a composure and toughness about us which makes me believe there’s not a whole lot that’s going to rattle this team.
“The team stuck together and kept finding a way to be successful. Their tenacity is going to be a huge asset for us as we try to become the best team we can be and continue to grow.”
Duke will conclude their participation in the USC Classic with a contest against Cal State Northridge on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. Pacific Time (2 p.m. Eastern Time). The Blue Devils will then return to Durham, N.C., before hitting the road again the next weekend for the Nebraska Ameritas Players Challenge in Lincoln, Neb.