MINNEAPOLIS – The Duke volleyball team utilized 10 team blocks to pick up its fourth victory of the season Saturday afternoon at the Diet Coke Classic, defeating Ball State 3-0 (25-23, 25-17, 25-22) at the University of Minnesota’s Sports Pavilion.
Freshman Jordan Tucker and senior Chelsea Cook led the way with five and four blocks, respectively. The Duke (4-1) duo also combined for 17 kills and a .342 hitting percentage. Sophomore Emily Sklar reached double-digit kills for the third time this season, leading all players with 13, while junior Jeme Obeime chipped in with eight kills and three blocks.
Neither team was able to find a rhythm offensively, but Duke’s defense, bolstered by 15 digs from senior Ali McCurdy, was the difference. The Blue Devils limited Ball State (3-3) to a .067 hitting percentage, marking the fourth time this season Duke has held its opponent to under .150 hitting.
“We’re excited to get this match in three,” said head coach Jolene Nagel. “I thought our team served the best we have all year against a solid passing team. Our block stayed disciplined and allowed our defense to dig. I was pleased to see our team communicate and execute today against a good Ball State team.”
An early lead in set one disappeared late as costly errors came back to haunt the Blue Devils. Trailing 22-20, Nagel called timeout and her team responded, taking the next two points to tie the frame. Duke regained the lead on a Sklar kill and went up 24-22 following a Sasha Karelov service ace. Sklar and Tucker sealed the set with a block to put the Blue Devils up 1-0. Duke’s blocking was the difference in the opening set as the Blue Devils tallied five stops while Ball State did not register a block
Ball State opened the second set with a 9-6 advantage, but a 4-0 Duke run gave the Blue Devils their first lead of the frame. Duke would outscore the Cardinals 15-8 over the remainder of the set, ultimately taking the frame 25-17. Junior setter Maggie Deichmeister, who finished with 34 assists, targeted Obeime and Tucker as the pair combined for eight kills.
Duke’s momentum in the second set carried over to the final stanza. The Blue Devils opened the frame with a 5-0 lead, but Ball State would not go quietly and fought back to tie the score at 22-22. Back-to-back kills from Cook and Obeime put Duke up 24-22 and the Blue Devils finished the match with a Cook and Deichmeister block to seal the victory.
Alex Fuelling totaled 11 of the Cardinals’ 28 kills and Catie Fredrich added 12 digs to lead Ball State.
Duke wraps up the Diet Coke Classic tonight with a match against No. 4 Minnesota at 8:30 p.m.