ARLINGTON, Texas – The Duke volleyball team opened the first round of the Hilton Invitational with a 3-0 (25-10, 25-15, 25-15) win over tournament host UT Arlington Friday evening in Texas Hall.
The Blue Devils (5-2, 0-0 ACC) hit a season-high .468 as a team with 52 kills and just eight errors, all of which were the best three-set totals of the season for Duke. The Blue Devils held the Mavs (3-6) to a .116 clip and surrendered just 40 combined points, which is the lowest combined score from a Duke opponent since the NCAA adopted rally scoring in 2001. For the season, the Blue Devils have held the opposition to a hitting percentage of .152 or less in four of their seven matches.
Junior outside hitter Rachael Moss and freshman middle blocker Sophia Dunworth led the offensive foray for Duke with a combined 23 kills and just four attack errors with each Blue Devil reaching double figures. Moss, the reigning ACC Player of the Week, hammered 13 of those kills at a .480 clip while Dunworth added the other 10 on a career-high .389 hitting percentage.
Duke’s middle blocking trio of senior Jourdan Norman, sophomore Becci Burling and freshman Amanda Robertson were all efficient as well, combining for a .558 hitting percentage with just three attack errors between them. Norman and Burling both finished with eight kills while Robertson reached career highs with six kills, five digs and 8.5 total points.
Thirteen Blue Devils saw action in the win, including setters Christina Falcone and Alex Sall who split time and combined for five assists. They came on to relieve freshman setter Kellie Catanach, who ended her night with 34 assists, which is a three-game career high for the Tampa, Fla., native. Senior outside hitter Aana Wherry also got in for two sets and went 2-for-3 attacking one assist and a dig.
The Blue Devils came out swinging and hammered 14 kills and three service aces in the opening set while making just two errors on the way to a 25-10 victory. Meanwhile, UT Arlington made seven attacking errors and had seven kills to hit .000 for the opener. Burling, Moss and Norman had three kills apiece in the opener while senior Sue Carls and Dunworth both got on the board with one kill each and freshman Kayla Kirk was one of three Blue Devils with a service ace. Duke came within one point of clinching the set at 24-9 before a service ace by Alicia Shaffer finally put the Mavs into double digits.
Duke fared even better in set two, combining for 19 kills and four errors for a .455 clip en route to a 25-15 win. Dunworth took top honors in the second set with five kills, a service ace and a block while Burling was a perfect 3-for-3 attacking as well. UT Arlington came within striking distance trailing 17-12, but the Blue Devils responded with a 5-1 run to jump ahead by nine before kills from Norman, Moss and Robertson ended the set and put Duke ahead 2-0.
Ahead 2-0 and hitting .429 through the first two frames, Duke improved even more with a .548 clip in the final set with 19 kills, two errors and a pair of blocks to lock up the 25-15 match-clinching victory. Catanach had a strong connection with Moss, who went 6-for-11 with no errors, and Robertson, who ended her match with a 4-for-4 showing in the final set that also included a service ace. The Mavs threatened to take their first lead of the match early with the score 11-8 in favor of Duke, but gave way to a 12-5 run that put the Blue Devils ahead 23-13. Sophomore libero Claire Smalzer was key on the defensive end in the final set, picking up six digs which was two more than the rest of her teammates combined.
Duke will continue play at the Hilton Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 13, with a pair of matches beginning at 1 p.m. Eastern Time against South Carolina State. Duke will then face No. 13 Middle Tennessee State in the tournament finale at 8:30 p.m. EDT.