DURHAM, N.C. – Duke handed No. 5 Pitt its first loss of the 2018 season, defeating the Panthers 3-1 (18-25, 26-24, 25-23, 25-22) Sunday afternoon in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The victory is Duke’s first over a ranked team this season and second over a top 5 team in program history.
“It all started with serve receive,” said head coach Jolene Nagel. “Our passers did a good job today and our setters did a good job of mixing things up to open up our hitters. It was different players stepping up at different times and that’s what we needed to defeat a really strong Pitt team that doesn’t make a lot of errors.”
In addition to totaling 11 kills and hitting .364, middle blocker Leah Meyer recorded a match-high nine blocks on the afternoon. Her final block of the day not only established match point but also gave her 400 for her career. Meyer is the 10th Blue Devil to reach the 400-career-block plateau, joining Jourdan Norman (640), Krista Dill (553), Jen Rohrig (529), Christiana Gray (491), Adrian Nichol (480), Carrie DeMange (466), Sylvia Thomson (439), Jordan Tucker (401) and Linda Bianchi (400).
“[Meyer] really had a great day,” Nagel said. “Her blocking helped us so much. It was really exciting to see her have the success she had today both defensively and offensively to be a force at the net.”
As a team, Duke (13-8, 7-5 ACC) turned in a .316 hitting percentage, the fifth time this season the Blue Devils have hit .300 or better.
Three Blue Devils picked up double-digit digs to help anchor the backline. Libero Mackenzie Cole had a team-high 15, followed by Kelli Kalinoski’s 12 and Andie Shelton’s 10. Despite missing the first set, Shelton once again neared a triple-double, adding 22 assists and eight kills. Shelton did not commit an attack error on 14 attempts, good for a .571 hitting percentage.
Better ball control allowed Pitt (23-1, 11-1 ACC) to win the first by a seven-point margin. The Panthers hit .361 as a team in a frame they never trailed.
Tied 23-23 in the second, Pitt’s Layne Van Buskirk put down a kill to establish set point before the Blue Devils swept the next three points to tie the overall score 1-1. A Shelton kill knotted the score before Cole fired an ace. Shelton then teamed up with Meyer for the set-clinching block.
The two teams traded points for the duration of a third set that featured 19 ties and five lead changes. Duke gained separation following a bad Pitt set and a Meyer solo stop to make it a 23-21 game. Kills from Meyer and Samantha Amos finished the frame, part of a 19-kill Duke effort as the Blue Devils hit .500 for the set.
The back-and-forth action continued in the fourth, resulting in a 20-all score heading down the stretch. A Meyer and Schwantz block gave Duke the lead before Schwantz knocked down a kill to make it a two-point margin. Meyer teamed up with Amos on the block to establish match point then Schwantz hammered home her 17th kill to seal the win.
“I was screaming at the top of my lungs,” Meyer said. “We worked so hard this week and this season. Getting that satisfaction of Payton [Schwantz] literally hammering the ball game point was just an amazing feeling. I just want to go hug every single one of my teammates because I know everyone worked their butts off today.”
Duke’s schedule next sends the Blue Devils to North Carolina and NC State this coming weekend.