KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - ACC Defensive Player of the Year Ali McCurdy broke Duke's single-season digs record, but host Tennessee pulled out a 3-1 (25-15, 23-25, 25-19, 25-16) win over the Blue Devils in the first round of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament in Thompson-Boling Arena.
McCurdy, a sophomore, finished the season with an ACC-leading 653 digs, besting the record of 644 held by Duke's all-time digs leader Jenny Shull since 2007. McCurdy, who is the fastest player in Duke history to reach 1,000 digs, averaged 5.73 digs per set for the year which ranks second at Duke and fourth on the ACC's single-season list.
Despite McCurdy's record-breaking performance, the 14th-seeded Volunteers (28-3) used 19 kills from Kelsey Robinson and 12 team blocks to pull out their 14th consecutive home-court victory. The loss marked only the second time during Duke's seven-year tournament streak that the Blue Devils (21-9) have been knocked out in the first round. Duke's last first-round loss also came against Tennessee in Knoxville during the 2009 tournament.
Tennessee, ranked No. 15 in the country, moves on to the second round where it will face Ohio State on Friday, Dec. 2, at 7 p.m. in Thompson-Boling Arena.
Tennessee controlled the first set, picking up a decisive 25-15 victory, but could not handle an energized Duke team in game two. Senior setter Kellie Catanach kept the Volunteers off balance by distributing the ball to a number of Blue Devil attackers, including All-ACC middle blocker Christiana Gray who put down five of her 12 kills in that game.
Duke stayed in control early in set three, jumping out to a 7-3 lead, but Tennessee responded with the first of several big runs to reclaim a 10-7 lead. The Volunteers never trailed from that point and held off a late Duke rally that closed the gap to 19-17.
Robinson took over for Tennessee in set four, hammering eight of the Volunteers' 14 kills to lock up the win. Duke senior right side hitter Amanda Robertson closed out her career with four kills and eight digs in that set, but Tennessee used runs of 8-1 and 7-0 to stay in control.
Duke wraps up the year with a 21-9 overall record for its school-record eighth consecutive 20-win season. Catanach, who totaled 42 assists in her final match, finishes her Duke career ranked second in the school record books and ninth in ACC history with 5,363 career assists. Senior Sophia Dunworth also cracked Duke's top 10 and wrapped up her career with the seventh-most kills in school history.