DURHAM, N.C. – Behind a stellar performance from senior libero Ali McCurdy, the 15th-ranked Duke volleyball team clinched a share of the 2013 ACC Championship Wednesday afternoon, defeating NC State 3-1 (25-20, 25-14, 20-25, 25-18) in Cameron Indoor Stadium. With a one game lead over both North Carolina and Florida State heading into the season finale, Duke has the opportunity to win the league title outright Friday against the Tar Heels.
In her penultimate regular season home match, McCurdy did not disappoint as the Tampa, Fla., native anchored a solid defensive outing by the Blue Devils. McCurdy matched her career high with an astounding 37 digs, extending her ACC-record career total to 2,463. Duke (26-4, 17-2 ACC) also received a career-high-tying seven blocks from freshman middle blocker Jordan Tucker to help hold the NC State (20-11, 11-8 ACC) offense in check for much of the match.
“We’re really happy we got this win today,” said head coach Jolene Nagel. “NC State plays tremendous defense. They keep the ball alive forever, they keep coming at you and they’re a great team. [NC State] has a lot of great hitters, so I was pleased with how our team executed on the block and on defense.”
McCurdy was not the only Blue Devil standout on the day as sophomore outside Emily Sklar added her eighth double-double of the season with a career-high 21 kills and season-high 19 digs. In addition, setter Maggie Deichmeister notched her eighth double-double with a 49-assist, 10-dig outing and rightside hitter Elizabeth Campbell hit .400 with 14 kills, nine digs and four blocks.
Looking to avenge an Oct. 13 loss in Raleigh, the Blue Devils never trailed in the first set and stormed out to an 11-7 advantage. NC State chipped away at the margin and tied the frame at 16-all before Duke took command with a 4-0 spurt. NC State would come no closer than three the rest of the way, and Duke iced the frame with a Sklar kill. Duke’s defense was on point in the first set, holding the Wolfpack to .043 hitting behind 10 digs each from McCurdy and Sklar.
The Duke attack knocked down 15 kills with just two attack errors in the second game to earn the victory in dominating fashion, 25-14. Hitters Jeme Obeime, Campbell and Sklar contributed four kills each to pace a balanced offensive front. One of three Blue Devils in double-digit kills, Obeime would end the day with 11 overall.
Costly errors proved to be the difference in the third stanza, a 25-20 decision for NC State. Duke led 17-15 following a Sklar kill before the Wolfpack closed out the frame on a 10-3 run, aided by four kills from outside hitter Rachel Buckley and four Blue Devil errors.
Errors seemed to haunt Duke again as back-to-back miscues tied the fourth-set score at 9-9. Undaunted, the Blue Devils regained their composure and rallied with an 8-4 streak capped by Sklar’s 22nd service ace of the season. Duke kept the Wolfpack at bay the rest of the way and finished off the victory with three Sklar kills to improve to 14-0 at home.
Buckley led all NC State players with 11 kills, while middle Brie Merriwether added 10. Freshman libero Rachel Eppley paced a quartet of Wolfpack players in double-digit digs, picking up 15.
With the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line, Duke plays its final regular season match Friday, Nov. 29 at 3 p.m. against No. 14 North Carolina in Cameron Indoor Stadium.