LINCOLN, Neb. -- The No. 11 Duke volleyball team suffered a 3-0 (30-24, 30-20, 30-23) defeat at the hands of No. 1 Nebraska Friday evening in the opening round of the Nebraska Ameritas Players Challenge at NU Coliseum.
Duke (5-2) could not fend off the 2006 NCAA Champion Nebraska (5-0) which was led by the trio of Chris Houghtelling, Jordan Larson and Sarah Pavan. All three Huskers reached double-digit kills, while Larson racked up a match high 16 successful attacks along with 14 digs for a double-double. Nebraska maintained a .336 hitting percentage through the contest to finish with 55 total kills, the most Duke has allowed this season in three-game matches.
Senior Carrie DeMange paced the Blue Devils with 15 kills and a .440 hitting percentage. Junior Jourdan Norman and sophomore Rachael Moss also provided offensive help with a combined 18 kills. Norman also contributed three blocks, including one solo stop, while senior setter Ali Hausfeld matched Norman with three stops of her own. Hausfeld also racked up 35 assists against Nebraska, marking the sixth time in seven matches that the 2006 ACC Player of the Year has recorded more than 30 kills.
Both teams engaged in a tight battle in game one before Nebraska put away Duke 30-24 to take an early 1-0 lead. Duke posted a .231 hitting percentage in the opening game, but could not match the Husker’s .371 output. After falling behind by as much as seven points at 21-14, Duke fought back with a 6-1 run to narrow the gap to 22-20 before Nebraska was forced to call a timeout. The break was enough to kill Duke’s momentum, however, as the Huskers responded with a 7-4 run to end the game.
Pavan kept a hot hand for Nebraska in game two, finishing 5-of-9 attacking to shape a .350 Husker hitting percentage in the second frame. DeMange shouldered the load for the Blue Devils, but her four kills on eight attempts was not enough to offset the efforts of Pavan and setter Rachael Holloway, who recorded 14 assists in 15 attempts.
The Blue Devils fought back late in game three to close a six-point deficit to 20-19, but the Nebraska defense proved too much for the Blue Devils to overcome. Larson added seven of her 16 kills in the final frame along with seven digs for Nebraska, while DeMange and Moss turned in 11 combined kills in game three.
“As a staff, we’re really proud of our team and the way they competed tonight,” head coach Jolene Nagel said. “Nebraska is a really tough opponent, and I was glad to see how our team made them work for points. They served us very tough, but we handled it pretty well at times. We got good hitting production out of our hitters and were able to get our hands on a few balls at the net.
“If we could have been a little more aggressive at times throughout the match, it would have helped us make some things happen. Against Nebraska, though, you can’t afford to make errors, and we had a few more service errors than we would like to see. There were also a few broken plays that we could have made better decisions on, but we picked up a lot of things that we’re going to try and work on to make us better. This match is going to make us stronger later in the season.”
Duke will face Louisville on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. (5:30 p.m. Eastern Time) in Saturday’s final round of the Nebraska Ameritas Players Challenge. Louisville dropped a hard-fought 3-2 (20-30, 30-23, 24-30, 30-16, 21-19) contest to New Mexico State in the opening round and will also conclude its tournament against the Blue Devils.