DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke volleyball team clinched a share of the 2010 ACC Volleyball Championship and its sixth straight NCAA Tournament bid and on Friday afternoon after defeating Virginia Tech 3-1 (25-14, 25-20, 20-25, 25-23) in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Duke (23-5, 15-3 ACC) can finish no worse than a tie for first place alongside North Carolina, which trails Duke by three matches after this afternoon’s over Virginia Tech. Duke has swept North Carolina 3-0 in both meetings this season, giving the Blue Devils the conference’s automatic NCAA bid tiebreaker if the Tar Heels were to win their final three matches and finish with the same ACC record as Duke.
Duke needs only one more victory to win the ACC outright. Upcoming for the Blue Devils are a 7 p.m. meeting with Virginia on Saturday, Nov. 20, in Cameron Indoor Stadium, and a road trip to Wake Forest on Tuesday, Nov. 23, in the season finale.
With the 2010 ACC Championship secured, Duke has won three conference crowns in the past five years. Additionally, head coach Jolene Nagel will now lead the Blue Devils to their ninth NCAA Tournament in her 12 seasons at Duke.
“We’re excited to be able to know that we have a share of the ACC title,” Nagel said. “This team has worked very hard from the beginning of spring training last year and through the summer until now. They have really been a special group in regard to making a commitment to their development. A championship is a special thing, and I’m just excited for this team to at least know that they have a piece of one.”
In the conference-clinching victory over the Hokies (18-11, 9-10 ACC), senior outside hitter Claire Smalzer and junior middle blocker Amanda Robertson posted their eighth and ninth double-doubles, respectively, while sophomore middle blocker Christiana Gray dominated at the net with a career-high 11 blocks. Gray overtook her previous career high of eight by the middle of the third set.
Led by Gray’s 11 blocks and freshman libero Ali McCurdy’s 21 digs, the Blue Devils posted 14 blocks and held Virginia Tech (18-11, 9-10 ACC) to a .189 hitting percentage. ACC Player of the Year candidate Kellie Catanach, who added to her ACC-leading assist total with 49 helpers, also pulled double duty and helped out on the defensive end with five blocks.
Catanach dished to four Blue Devils who recorded double-digit kills, including Smalzer who had a team-high 14, Robertson (13), Becci Burling (12) and Sophia Dunworth (10).
Virginia Tech got the bulk of its offensive output from 5-foot-8 outside hitter Justine Record, who amassed 19 kills and four service aces. Record had 10 of those kills and two aces in the Hokies’ 25-20 game three victory.
Duke had no trouble with Virginia Tech in the opening set and posted a .364 team hitting percentage on the way to a 25-14 win. Smalzer and Robertson both knocked down five kills with Robertson hitting .714 with no attack errors. The Blue Devils gave up only one service ace and held the Hokies to a .105 clip.
The Hokies responded in the second set and held an early two-point lead at 9-7, but the Blue Devils fought back to reclaim the lead and win 25-20. Robertson continued to give Virginia Tech trouble, as she went 6-for-10, and Gray worked her way in on all five of Duke’s blocks. Gray, who entered the match averaging just under one block per set, recorded her 100th stop of the year in game two as the Blue Devils held Virginia Tech to a .154 clip.
Virginia Tech got on a roll in set three, however, and never stopped on the way to a 25-20 win. Justine Record was the story of the game as she pounded 10 kills and two service aces to account for just under 50 percent of the Hokies’ points. The 5-foot-8 outside hitter went 10-for-14 in the frame as the Hokies posted 21 kills.
The Hokies nearly tied the match at two sets apiece in game four, but the Blue Devils mounted a late rally that 6-0 run after trailing 23-19. The Hokies needed just two points to send the match into a fifth set, but following a timeout, the Blue Devils forced three Hokie attack errors before ending the match on a kill from Burling. Sophomore Nailah Waterfield, whose 11 digs was key in the defensive effort, served Duke’s last five points during the rally.
Duke will play its final regular season home match on Saturday, Nov. 20, against Virginia in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils swept the Cavaliers in their last meeting in Charlottesville, Va.