CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Duke was unable to convert a quick start into sustained momentum, falling to North Carolina 3-1 (25-18, 23-25, 18-25, 17-25) Friday evening in Carmichael Arena.
Duke (11-5, 3-2 ACC) used a late rally to win the opening frame then led by four late in the second before North Carolina (6-7, 3-2 ACC) overtook the Blue Devils. The Tar Heels capitalized on the momentum shift to win the final three stanzas. Duke held North Carolina to hitting percentages under .100 the first two sets but the Tar Heels posted marks above .300 the final two frames.
“I really felt coming into tonight it was going to be important that we control the ball,” said head coach Jolene Nagel. “We needed to well but we had too many errors tonight. I thought we were doing that early on and doing a pretty good job in the first set. We did a decent job in the second set but we hurt ourselves with our errors.”
Duke received strong performances from middle blockers Anna Kropf and Summer Brown. Kropf totaled 13 kills on .478 hitting while Brown knocked down seven kills on .429 hitting. Outside hitter Cadie Bates dropped a team-best 17 kills while fellow outside Payton Schwantz added seven of her own.
Kropf totaled five kills and two blocks to help Duke come away with a 25-18 first-set decision. Duke withstood two early North Carolina rallies to close the frame on a 15-5 run. The Blue Devils hits .290 in the set and held the Tar Heels to a .094 clip.
Duke led the second set 20-16 before UNC closed the frame on a 9-3 run. The Tar Heels carried over the late second-set momentum into the third, hitting .485 in the 25-18 UNC victory. North Carolina’s Taylor Leath and Taylor Fricano combined for eight kills on 13 attempts in the third to put UNC up, 2-1 overall.
“We started making more unforced errors in that second set and it’s just really hard to make up for that,” Nagel said. “That really hurt us in set two. Going to the third and fourth set, [North Carolina] started serving us deeper and we didn’t adjust well enough in order to have a great first contact. We were stuck on our heels.”
North Carolina pulled away in the fourth, turning a 10-10 tie into a 20-13 advantage. Bates totaled seven kills in the set but the Tar Heels received five kills from Holly Carlton to counter.
Carlton finished the night with 13 kills to lead North Carolina, followed closely by Leath’s 12.
On defense, libero Nicole Elattrache picked up 24 digs to record her fourth match of the season with 20 more digs.
Duke returns to action at 4 p.m., Sunday Oct. 8, traveling to Raleigh, N.C., to take on NC State on RSN.