DURHAM, N.C. - The Duke volleyball team came up short in a rematch between ACC rivals as the Blue Devils dropped a 3-1 (14-25, 18-25, 25-22, 25-17) decision to North Carolina Friday evening in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Junior Chelsea Cook led the Blue Devils (12-12, 3-9 ACC) with 11 kills, committing just one error on 24 attempts for a .417 hitting percentage, while senior Christiana Gray had eight kills and freshman Elizabeth Campbell added seven. Costly errors hindered Duke's ability to maintain momentum as the Blue Devils hit .143 in the match, compared to .245 for North Carolina (18-4, 9-3 ACC).
"We made too many errors early on in the match, and obviously in set four, to give ourselves a chance to win tonight," said head coach Jolene Nagel. "We've worked on minimizing our errors and we have to be able to find some consistency. We just have to keep working to become better volleyball players and to make sure we have the mindset we need to be more consistent."
Defensively, Duke received five blocks each from Campbell, Cook and Gray as the Blue Devils totaled 11 team blocks to North Carolina's six in the match. Junior Ali McCurdy again led the Blue Devils in digs with 17 on the night, bringing her career total to 1,793. The Tampa, Fla., native is now just 26 digs shy of second place in the school career record book.
"[Cook and Gray] have been our most consistent players out there," added Nagel. "It's exciting that we blocked better than our opponent tonight. We have to find that consistency so that we don't have one part of our game doing well and another part struggling. We just have to get back at it and keep working to get better."
Chaniel Nelson led all players with 17 kills for North Carolina, which totaled 58 for the match, while Kayla Berringer and Paige Neuenfeldt chipped in with 11 kills each for the Tar Heels.
Both squads fought to gain the upper hand in the early going with UNC eking ahead 7-6 to start the opening set. A Blue Devil service error sparked an 8-0 Tar Heel spurt, bolstered by three kills from Nelson. The deficit proved too much for Duke to overcome as the Blue Devils fell 25-14 in set one.
After trailing by three early in game two, Duke battled back to tie the score at 17-17 following a kill from sophomore Jeme Obeime, who finished with nine kills in the match including four in the second frame. However, North Carolina responded with an 8-1 rally, aided by a pair of aces from Ece Taner, to close out the set and take a 2-0 advantage overall.
Duke's middle blockers proved to be the difference in the third set as Campbell, Cook and Gray combined for 11 kills and just one attack error for the stanza. Cook led the Blue Devils, who won the set 25-22, with five kills in addition to four blocks. A 7-3 run put Duke up 16-11 midway through the third set, forcing a UNC timeout. The Blue Devils fought off a Tar Heel rally to pull ahead 19-16 following back-to-back Cook kills. North Carolina again made a run, but a UNC service error sealed the victory for the Blue Devils.
The fourth set belonged to the Tar Heels as North Carolina won the first five points to open the game. Duke was unable to significantly cut into the deficit and UNC clinched the victory on a kill by Lauren Adkins.
Duke returns to action tomorrow night, taking on NC State at 7:30 p.m., in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Saturday's match has been designated as Duke's 'Dig Pink' event to honor those affect by breast cancer. The team will wear pink t-shirts, socks and shoes while the squad's pink shirts will also be featured in the Super Serve contest between the second and third sets.