LINCOLN, Neb. -- The No. 11 Duke volleyball team dropped a hard-fought 3-2 (31-33, 29-31, 34-32, 30-25, 15-12) contest to Louisville Saturday evening at NU Coliseum on the final day of the Nebraska Ameritas Players Challenge.
Three of the five games went to extra points, while a five-point win in game four was the largest deficit of the evening. Duke (5-3) battled to opening wins in games one and two before the Cardinals rallied to tie the meeting at 2-2 with narrow victories in the next two games. A three-point victory in game five would be the difference for Louisville (4-4), which moves one step closer to breaking the CSTV/AVCA Top-25 after receiving 12 votes in the most recent national poll.
Several Blue Devils recorded career highs in the match, including seniors Ali Hausfeld and Jenny Shull and sophomore Rachael Moss. Hausfeld’s 79 assists were not only a career-best, but the fifth-highest mark in school history and the most since 1996 when Duke’s all-time assists record holder Kristen Campbell tossed up 84 in a single match. Shull picked up 35 digs for the second-best total of her career and the third-best mark in school single-match history. Moss recorded 30 kills for the first time to become the second Blue Devil this season to reach the mark, making Duke the only squad in the NCAA to have two players record 30 or more kills in a single match.
Senior Carrie DeMange also claimed a double-double for Duke with 28 kills and 24 digs while also posting four blocks. Junior Jourdan Norman paced Duke with three solo blocks and one assisted while classmate Sue Carls turned in 13 kills on 33 attacks.
Lecia Brown guarded the net for Louisville, recording 13 blocks and 13 kills for one of three double-doubles for the Cardinals. Setter Samantha Dabbs posted 66 assists and 10 digs, while Justine Landi knocked down 10 kills while contributing 24 digs. Svetlana Dukule was also 16-of-49 attacking, but came through at just the right times for Louisville, saving the Cardinals from a Blue Devil match point in game three and knocking the match-winning points in game five.
Game one was a battle that saw four lead changes with Duke emerging with the victory after breaking a 31-31 tie following two attacking errors by the Cardinals. Both teams relied on strong defense in the opening frame, as Louisville could only most a .109 hitting percentage while Duke compiled a collective mark of .094. DeMange still managed to throw down six kills while Moss added five.
Game two saw an improved Duke squad, as the Blue Devils improved on their previous performance with a .220 hitting percentage that included 10 kills by Moss and 20 assists by Hausfeld. Duke led by as much as five points on two occasions, but Louisville rallied to force the game to extra points after tying the score at 29-29. Duke would put it away, however, with back-to-back kills by Moss and Carls.
The Blue Devils had two match-point opportunities in game three, but the Cardinals fought back each time before earning a 34-32 extra-point victory in the third frame. Louisville benefited from an improved offensive effort with a .333 hitting percentage on the performance of Brown, who was 5-of-8 attacking, Svetlana Dukule, who was 4-of-7, and Jana Matiasovska, who finished game three 4-for-11. The Cardinals were the first to a match-point advantage at 30-29, but back-to-back kills by DeMange from Hausfeld put Duke ahead 31-30. Dukule would put Louisville back in contention with a kill, however, before both teams traded errors to tie the score again at 32-32. Dukule finally put Louisville back on top with her fourth kill of the game before the Cardinals claimed the win on a Duke attacking error.
Louisville locked down their defense in game four to hold Duke to a .086 clip while posting a .273 mark of their own to emerge with a 30-25 win in the fourth frame. Brown posted another errorless performance in the game, finishing 6-of-8 attacking while also contributing three of the Cardinals’ three blocks. Duke fell behind by seven points midway through the game before cutting the deficit to one point at 25-24. Louisville would not surrender, however, and ended the bout with a 5-1 run to forced game five.
The Blue Devils turned in an improved offensive showing in game five with a .350 hitting percentage, but could not rebound from an early deficit and dropped the fifth game 15-12 to surrender the match. Louisville jumped ahead 6-3 early before allowing Duke to pull within one point, but found a late groove as Dukule slammed kills for the final two points.
“Louisville played really, really well tonight,” head coach Jolene Nagel said. “They hung in there and kept at it and that’s why they won tonight. They hung tough, executed well and didn’t commit a lot of errors, which is why they were able come back after dropping the first two games. We also had some great things happen for us tonight and had a lot of great individual performances, but they stopped our offense better than we were able to stop theirs.
“Coming to this tournament really allowed us to see where our weaknesses are, and what we have to do to become a better team. We know now what areas we have to hammer out, and we have every intention of doing that before we begin our ACC schedule. This team has played a very tough schedule so far, but it has made us that much more prepared for our conference opponents.
The Blue Devils will begin a gauntlet of ACC matches, beginning with a Sept. 18 home meeting against Wake Forest at 7 p.m. in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Duke will then take on Maryland and Boston College at home on Sept. 21-22 before hitting the road for five straight conference road matches.