CLEMSON, S.C. - Four Blue Devils reached double-digit kills and junior Ali McCurdy broke the school single season dig record but the Duke volleyball team came up short against Clemson, falling 3-2 (21-25, 25-16, 19-25, 25-16, 15-12) to the Tiger Friday evening at Jervey Gym.
McCurdy, the ACC leader in digs per set, picked up 17 tonight, bringing her season total to 654. That mark establishes the Duke single season record, which McCurdy set just last season. The Tampa, Fla., native has 1,927 career digs to her credit and is 73 shy of becoming the second player in program history to reach 2,000 digs.
"[McCurdy] has been a constant for us on defense this year and on serve receive," said Nagel. "She is also leading for us out there on the court and anchoring our defense. She is becoming much more vocal and really taken a lot on her shoulders."
Senior Christiana Gray turned in a strong performance tonight, hitting .464 on 28 attempts, as the Carmel, Ind., native led the Blue Devils with 15 kills and nine blocks. Sophomore Jeme Obeime, freshman Emily Sklar and junior Chelsea Cook each eclipsed the 10-plus kill mark as well. Obeime (14 kills, 10 digs) and Sklar (13 kills, 16 digs) both recorded double-doubles, while Cook (11 kills) also added four blocks. Sophomore Kelsey Williams added a double-double as well, her third is as many matches, with 48 assists and 14 digs.
"Kelsey [Williams] did a great job of distributing the ball so we had four different people in double digit kills," added Nagel. "We had a low number of hitting errors, which was great, too. A lot of that has to do with how [Williams] distributed the ball. It's really exciting to see that many people in double digit digs because defense is crucial to us being successful. It was a great effort by our team tonight and there were a lot of great individual efforts in there, too."
The Blue Devils and the Tigers battled to five sets for the fifth time in the two teams' past seven meeting. Duke hit .258 on the night with 66 kills and utilized 13 blocks to limit Clemson to .183 hitting.
"I couldn't be prouder of how our team competed tonight," said Nagel. "We had more kills. We had a higher hitting percentage because we had fewer errors. We had more digs and we had more blocks. Sometimes the timing of the errors makes all the difference."
Clemson began the night with a 25-12 victory in the opening set as the Tigers knocked down 20 kills, compared to 14 for Duke. Mo Simmons, who finished the night with 14 kills, amassed five in the first set to pace the Tigers. After trailing 10-6 early, Duke came back to tie the score before Clemson pulled away late with an 8-4 run.
Set two belonged to the Blue Devils, who hit over .300 in the frame while limiting the Tigers to .062. Duke opened with a 10-4 spurt and never looked back, tying the match at 1-1 on a Cook kill. Duke registered 17 kills, led by Obeime with five, and limited Clemson to just six.
The back-and-forth action continued in the third set with Clemson holding the upper hand in both kills (19-12) and hitting percentage (.308-.273). The Tigers jumped out to an early lead and Duke was unable to significantly cut into the deficit.
Duke's blocking unit stopped four Clemson attempts in the fourth set, helping the Blue Devils limit the Tigers to .019 hitting and tie the match at 2-2. Gray led with way with seven kills on .875 hitting while Cook and freshman Elizabeth Campbell added three blocks each. An 11-8 Duke advantage turned into a 17-11 Blue Devil lead, bolstered by three kills from Gray. Clemson was unable to rally as the two squads headed to the fifth and final set.
"Clemson's a really good team" said Nagel. "They're a good blocking team. For us to come up with 13 blocks against their strong offense with a setter that distributes the ball well and is really deceptive is really great for our team. Blocking is something we really wanted to get better at. The whole weekend our team has done a good job of that."
Clemson held the upperhand early in the last frame, but the Blue Devils overcame a three-point deficit to knot the score at 9-9. Clemson followed a Duke service error with an ace of its own for a 13-10 lead. Duke fought back with a kill from Cook, but Clemson received a pair of kills from Sandra Adeleye, who led all players with 17 on the night, to seal the win.
Duke closes out the regular season with a trip to Wake Forest Tuesday, Nov. 20. The Blue Devils and the Demon Deacons are set to meet at 7 p.m.