DURHAM, N.C. - The Duke volleyball team pulled off something no other ACC team has been able to do this year by handing No. 17 Florida State its first conference loss of the year with a 3-2 (25-20, 14-25, 25-20, 22-25, 15-7) win in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The turning point of the match came in set three when Duke, trailing 17-9, scored 12 consecutive points to overcome that deficit and build a 21-17 lead. During that run, junior Megan Hendrickson served all 12 points for the Blue Devils (18-8, 12-5 ACC), who went on to win set three 25-20.
Florida State (22-5, 16-1 ACC) managed to tie the match by pulling out a 25-22 win in set four, but the Blue Devils dominated the fifth and final set 15-7. For the match, Duke outdug Florida State 88-66 and had two players - libero Ali McCurdy and All-ACC middle blocker Amanda Robertson - finish with at least 20 digs.
"It was really exciting to see our team come out and play and compete like they're capable of," Duke head coach Jolene Nagel said. "We certainly didn't do that on Thursday which was very discouraging to everybody. I had hoped that there was a message in there somewhere and that we were going to step up to the plate and play like we're capable of on Sunday. I just couldn't be more proud of our team and the character they showed to come out and compete like this today."
Florida State entered the match ranked third nationally in blocks per set and 12th in hitting percentage, but Duke kept the Seminoles off balance and out-of-rhythm and hit .250 while holding them to a .191 clip. Junior middle blocker Christiana Gray came through time and time again for the Blue Devils and finished with a match-high 20 kills and a .390 hitting percentage.
Gray was one of four Blue Devils with double-digit kills, leading senior Sophia Dunworth (18 kills), sophomore Chelsea Cook (11) and freshman Jeme Obeime (10). Dunworth was setter Kellie Catanach's go-to attacker in set five and connected on five of her eight swings in the final frame. Cook, meanwhile, connected on 11 of her 17 attacks for a .471 hitting percentage and Obeime reached 10 kills for the 10th time this season.
"I thought we did a great job of executing tonight, and I really felt like it was an entire team effort," Nagel said. "Everyone on the sidelines and on the court was just in the moment trying to help this team get the next point. Our home crowd support was great, and we really fed off of that especially in games three and five."
Duke shocked the Seminoles by hitting .419 in the first set on the way to a 25-20 win, but could not overcome a number of mistakes in set two. The Seminoles took advantage to win game two 25-14 and carried that momentum well into set three. Florida State led 17-9 in the third set before the Blue Devils put together their best rally of the year with 12 consecutive points that turned the eight-point deficit into a four-point lead. Hendrickson's serve kept Florida State out of system, and Duke used that to pound seven kills and a block during the run. Florida State did not score consecutive points for the rest of that set, and Duke closed out the set with back-to-back kills from Robertson and Obeime.
Florida State rebounded for game four and eventually won a back-and-forth battle 25-22 to force game five. Gray was unstoppable for the Blue Devils, going 7-for-12 with no errors, but Florida State used four team blocks and six kills from Jekaterina Stepanova to temporarily overcome Duke's momentum.
Set five was all Duke, however, as Catanach directed the offense to a .316 hitting percentage and a 15-7 victory. Duke dug 14 of Florida State's 18 attacks and blocked another while Dunworth led the way offensively with eight kills. A 5-0 run that increased the Duke lead to 8-2 was the key as Duke rode that cushion all the way to a match-clinching kills by Dunworth.
"I think it was great the way our team not only came out and executed - especially with our blocking and serve receive - but how much effort they displayed defensively," Nagel said. "We got some great touches off the block, but everyone did a great job of getting to balls on defense. That's what allowed us to be successful today."
With only three regular season matches remaining, Duke will hit the road next weekend for a pair of ACC matchups against Maryland and Boston College on Nov. 18-20. The Blue Devils will then return home for a Tuesday meeting with Wake Forest on Nov. 22, which will mark the season finale and the final home match for seniors Catanach, Dunworth, Robertson and Kayla Kirk.