UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The 12th-seeded Duke volleyball team will advance to the NCAA Elite Eight for the second time in school history after defeating Missouri 3-1 (25-19, 21-25, 25-19, 25-22) in the NCAA Regional Semifinals in the campus of Penn State University on Friday evening.
The Champion of the ACC, Duke (27-6) will face the winner of fourth-seeded Penn State and Oklahoma on Saturday, December 11, in the NCAA Regional Final which will air on ESPNU beginning at 6:30 p.m. The Blue Devils, who defeated High Point 3-0 in the first round and Ohio 3-2 in round two to advance to the Regional round, are the third ACC team in conference history to advance to the Round of Eight.
"Missouri's a great team, they're a great serving team, and we really had to work hard in our serve receive in order to be able to do what we wanted to do with the ball," said head coach Jolene Nagel, who will take Duke to its first NCAA Elite Eight during her 12-year tenure. "They have some great, physical hitters, and we really needed to work on our timing, try to get as many touches as we could and run balls down to win.
All along I've said this was a special team - and not because of where we are right now - but because of how they've come to work every single day in practice. They have a focus now that I haven't always seen for all the players on the team, and I think that's helping them be able to continue to get better as the season goes along. I'm very happy for them that they were able to execute the way they wanted to and stay with the game plan to get this win."
ACC Player of the Year Kellie Catanach posted 55 assists for the Blue Devils and allowed four Duke hitters to reach double figures. Juniors Sophia Dunworth and Amanda Robertson led the team with 15 kills apiece while sophomore middle blocker Christiana Gray pounded 13 and senior Becci Burling finished with 12. Duke hit .283 against a Missouri team that held fifth-seeded UNI to a .231 clip in a 3-2 first-round upset.
Gray and Burling were near-flawless, posting only two attack errors while combining for a .477 hitting percentage. Robertson gave the Tigers (22-11) just as much trouble, going 15-for-28 on the way to her 10th double-double of the year.
Defensively, Duke held Missouri to a .199 hitting percentage thanks to the blocking of Catanach and Gray who had five stops apiece. Freshman libero Ali McCurdy also came up big on the floor, adding 19 digs as one of four Duke players with double-digit digs. Senior Claire Smalzer had 16 digs, Burling had 12 for a double-double, Robertson finished with 10 and sophomore defensive specialist Nailah Waterfield chipped in six.
The three NCAA Volleyball Championship wins are the most in school history, topping the two victories from the 1993 NCAA Elite Eight team. Duke had previously advanced to the NCAA Second Round in five of the previous six seasons, but have now reached the Round of 16 and Round of Eight for the first time under Nagel.
Missouri’s offense ran through outside hitter Paola Ampudia, who totaled 21 kills on 51 attacks. Outside of Ampudia, however, Duke held remainder of the Tigers lineup to only 31 kills and a .172 hitting percentage.