DURHAM, N.C. – ACC Player of the Year Kellie Catanach led Duke to a .327 hitting percentage, and All-ACC middle blocker Christiana Gray went 10-for-14 with no attack errors to lead 12th-seeded Duke past High Point 3-0 (25-12, 25-20, 25-20) in the opening round of the NCAA Volleyball Championship in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Catanach, who was named the ACC’s top player prior to the start of the 2010 NCAA Volleyball Tournament, dished out 33 assists as Duke (25-6) racked up 41 kills and only nine errors in the three-set sweep. The 6-2 setter from Tampa, Fla., also contributed defensively with seven digs and three blocks as the Blue Devils held High Point to a .126 hitting percentage.
The Blue Devils hit .300 or better in every set and will advance to the NCAA Volleyball Championship’s second round for the fifth time in the past six seasons. Duke, in the program’s ACC-record sixth consecutive NCAA appearance, will now face Ohio on Saturday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The winner of that match will move on to the Sweet 16 in University Park, Pa., on Dec. 10 where they will face the winner of Missouri and Northwestern.
High Point (22-13), in the program’s first NCAA Volleyball Tournament appearance, had no answer for Gray, who posted a .714 hitting percentage and a pair of blocks. The 6-5 Gray, who was one of five All-ACC selections from Duke, got the bulk of her production in the second set when she went 7-for-10 on the way to improving her ACC-leading hitting percentage to .405.
“I think High Point played a great match,” said Duke head coach Jolene Nagel, who has led Duke to nine NCAA berths in her 12 seasons. “They were very aggressive, they were smart, they served really tough, and we had to make sure we did what we were capable of doing in order to control some momentum. They fought very hard, and I was proud of our team the way we made some adjustments, especially with our blocking and our ability to stay aggressive and not sit back on our heels.”
Duke stifled High Point’s offense, holding the squad to a -.118 clip in the opening game and a .126 mark for the match. All-ACC middle blocker Becci Burling recorded five of Duke’s eight blocks while defensive stalwarts Claire Smalzer and Ali McCurdy collected a combined 25 digs. Outside hitter Sophia Dunworth was nearly flawless offensively for the Blue Devils, posting 11 kills on a team-high 25 attacks. The 6-1 junior made only one attack error and came through with five kills in Duke’s 25-20 third-set win.
Despite Duke’s defensive showing, High Point senior Stephanie Wallin capped her four-year career with the Panthers with 14 kills and a .478 hitting percentage. Wallin saw only three of her 23 attacks land out of bounds and finished the season as High Point’s hitting percentage leader.
Outside of Wallin’s performance, however, Duke held the rest of the Panthers lineup to a .034 hitting percentage in front of a home crowd of 1,027 spectators. The win improved Duke’s home record in Cameron Indoor Stadium to 14-1 this season.
“I was really pleased with the crowd tonight, both from High Point as well as from Duke and the community, and I think that was really helpful in us getting through tonight,” Nagel said.