CLEMSON, S.C. – After falling behind 1-0, the Duke volleyball team found its rhythm in the latter frames, defeating Clemson 3-1 (21-25, 25-14, 25-18, 25-21) Sunday afternoon at Jervey Gym. The Tigers totaled 17 kills on .342 hitting in the opening game, but the Blue Devils were able to limit Clemson to 28 kills and a .091 hitting percentage over the final three sets.
Following a slow start in set one, Duke (16-3, 7-1 ACC) buckled down on defense over the final three stanzas, ultimately tying a season-high with 14.0 blocks while also amassing 81 digs. Senior libero Ali McCurdy led a contingent of five Blue Devils with double-digit digs, registering 19 to bring her career total to 2,227.
“[We’re] excited to come down here and get this win today because Clemson is a challenging place to play,” said head coach Jolene Nagel. “We came out a little bit quiet as team. [Clemson] was serving tough and we were on our heels as opposed to going after it in the first set. Once we started to communicate more, we started digging some balls and touching some balls on the block, then we got into a rhythm.”
Sophomore outside hitter Emily Sklar turned in a standout performance, picking up her second straight double-double with 16 kills and 16 digs to go along with four service aces and two blocks. Sunday’s match marked Sklar’s 11th straight with 10 or more kills, bringing her team-leading total to 232 on the season.
“Emily takes on a lot of responsibility, both offensively and defensively,” Nagel said. “She’s really coming into her own and stepping up to the plate when we need her to.”
In addition to Sklar, the Blue Devils also relied on middle blockers Chelsea Cook and Jordan Tucker for offensive production. A senior from Overland Park, Kan., Cook knocked down 11 kills while her counterpart Tucker tied a career-high with 10. The duo also combined for 10 blocks, adding five stops each.
“We felt we needed to block really well against Clemson because they have some strong offensive players,” Nagel added. “I thought we were disciplined on the block today. I also thought our team did a good job of getting the middles into the offense.”
Clemson (10-9, 4-4 ACC) stormed out to a 10-4 lead in the opening set before Duke fought back to tie the frame at 16-all following a Tiger ball handling error. A Sklar service ace put the Blue Devils on top 18-16, but the Tigers ended the frame on a 9-3 run to clinch the 25-21 victory. The Tigers’ Beta Dumancic totaled seven kills in the first game to lead an efficient Tiger offense, which amassed 17 kills to 10 for the Blue Devils.
Duke found its rhythm in set two, totaling 17 kills while hitting .371 en route to a 25-14 victory. The Blue Devils also utilized 5.0 second-set blocks to limit the Tigers to a match-low .079 hitting percentage. A Tucker kill gave the Blue Devils a 13-8 margin at the midway point and Duke closed out the set on a 12-5 run, tying the match 1-1.
Duke’s offense continued to tally kills in the third set, amassing 16 to eight for the Tigers in the frame. Sklar and classmate Elizabeth Campbell added four kills each to help the Blue Devils to a 25-18 victory.
Deadlocked at 18-18 in the fourth frame, Cook and junior Maggie Deichmeister paired up for the block, igniting a 7-2 Duke run to close the match. Up 24-20 after a Jeme Obeime kill, her eighth of the afternoon, junior Kelsey Williams recorded the ace to seal the victory. The final ace was part of a solid performance from Williams, who earned her first double-double of the season with 17 assists and 13 digs.
Clemson senior Moneshia Simmons came into the weekend averaging 4.63 kills per set to lead the ACC, and the outside hitter lived up to the billing, knocking down a match-high 18. Simmons added 10 digs and, along with Hannah Brenner (33 assists, 11 digs), was one of two Tigers with a double-double.
Sunday’s contest marked the end of a four-match road swing for the Blue Devils. Duke returns home next weekend, welcoming Florida State and Miami to Cameron Indoor Stadium.