DURHAM, N.C. – Junior outside hitter Emily Sklar amassed a career-high 22 kills to lead the 19th-ranked Duke volleyball team past Campbell 3-1 (25-11, 23-25, 25-14, 25-22) Tuesday evening in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
In addition to Sklar’s career night, two Blue Devils – libero Sasha Karelov and outside hitter Jeme Obeime – picked career-best dig totals with 35 and 22, respectively. As a team, Duke (4-0) outdug the Camels, 98-73, and limited Campbell (3-1) to a .116 hitting percentage. Sklar also added 10 digs for her 21st career double-double, while junior Breanna Atkinson added 13 digs to bolster the Duke defense.
The Blue Devils received solid offensive production out of sophomore middle blockers Jordan Tucker and Alyse Whitaker. Whitaker knocked down 12 kills, surpassing her career-high set in the season opener, while Tucker added 10 kills on .409 hitting.
“I think it was a good test for us,” said head coach Jolene Nagel. “We’re getting to see different people, different personnel out there on the court. That’s always good to see in a competitive setting. We made some errors and made some things difficult for ourselves. Campbell made some great plays. I want to see us respond to those a little bit differently than we’re doing right now, maybe in a more relaxed manner.”
Duke cruised in the opening set, a 25-11 victory that put the Blue Devils on top 1-0. An early 12-5 lead ballooned to 22-8 before Duke put the set away for good. The Blue Devils put down 16 kills and limited the Camels to just four in the decisive opening frame. Whitaker led the way with five kills, while Karelov tallied an impressive nine digs.
A slow start for the Blue Devils combined with eight attack errors led to a 25-23 loss in set two. Despite eight kills from Sklar, Duke could not overcome a .160 team hitting percentage. Down 20-16, Duke rallied late, getting consecutive kills from Sklar and Atkinson to force a Campbell timeout. The Blue Devils narrowed the margin to 24-23 on a Maggie Deichmeister and Whitaker block before Campbell’s Lorin Thomas put down the kills to secure the second set victory.
“That’s an issue for volleyball,” Nagel said. “There’s always that kind of momentum change. It’s a very precious thing when you have that momentum, but it can vary quickly. It certainly did for us. Campbell made some great plays and we missed some plays we needed to make. Then we get a little tighter. I would like to see us be able to play each point up to our capabilities and not let those runs take place.”
Set three saw Duke regain control of the match with a dominating 25-14 performance. Tucker smashed a kill to put Duke up 13-7 and force a Campbell timeout. The break did not slow the Blue Devils as Duke expanded its lead to nine points at 19-10. A pair of Campbell miscues ultimately secured the 2-1 lead for Duke heading to the fourth stanza.
The Blue Devils picked up right where they left off and won seven-of-eight points to start the fourth game. Up 21-13, it appeared Duke had the match well in hand before Campbell put together a late rally. The Camels won nine of the final 13 points but Duke held off Campbell in the end, sealing the victory with an Obeime kill.
Middle blocker Alexis Hein led the Camels with 13 kills and 10 digs, while libero Mary Cream chipped in with a team-high 21 digs.
The Blue Devils leave the friendly confines of Cameron this weekend to take on Michigan and Michigan State. Duke takes the court against the Wolverines Friday at 7 p.m., prior to a 5 p.m., tilt Saturday against the Spartans.