DURHAM, N.C. - Trailing 2-1 overall and 17-11 in the fourth set, the Duke volleyball team utilized a tremendous defensive effort to rally for a 3-2 (16-25, 25-22, 16-25, 27-25, 15-8) victory over ACC foe NC State Saturday evening at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Blue Devil defense registered a season-high 17 blocks in the match, including 12 in the final two frames to limit the Wolfpack to -.038 hitting over the fourth and fifth sets. Senior Christiana Gray amassed 11 blocks to lead Duke (13-12, 4-9 ACC), while freshman Elizabeth Campbell added six stops and junior Chelsea Cook had five.
Freshman Emily Sklar picked up her team-leading seventh double-double of the season with a career-high 20 kills to go along with 13 digs, two blocks and an ace. Campbell also recorded a double-double, her second of the season, with 12 kills and 10 digs.
Brie Merriwether and Alesha Wilson led NC State (19-5, 9-4 ACC), knocking down 20 and 16 kills, respectively. Wolfpack libero Alston Kearns registered a match-high 29 digs while also contributing a pair of aces.
"NC State has a very good team," said head coach Jolene Nagel. "We really had to work to get this win. We had to pull out of some holes to get this. That says a lot about what we are capable of and our character."
NC State jumped out to a 14-8 lead in set one, a margin which proved too much for the Blue Devils to overcome. Nine Blue Devil errors hampered Duke's chances and the Wolfpack took a 1-0 lead with a 25-16 victory in the first set.
Duke reversed the trend in the second set, using three Gray kills for an early 6-2 lead. The Blue Devils' advantage swelled to 18-11 following a pair of Wolfpack attack errors, but an 8-3 NC State run forced a Duke timeout. Cook knocked down the kill following the break and Sklar iced the set six points later with her fifth kill of the stanza. Gray, who finished the night with nine kills, was also instrumental in the Blue Devils' 25-22, second-set victory, totaling five kills on .714 hitting.
The Blue Devils were unable to slow the Wolfpack offense in the third set as NC State hit .355 while committing just two attack errors. NC State went on to win the set 25-15, taking a 2-1 lead overall.
NC State looked to have the match in hand after staking a 17-11 advantage in the fourth set, but the Blue Devils were able to turn the tide thanks in part to eight team blocks in the stanza. After totaling five blocks in the first three sets, Duke recorded five over the next 11 points and capped off a 9-3 run with an ace from Cook. Duke and NC State traded points and ultimately reached a 25-25 stalemate. It would be Campbell who clinched the set for the Blue Devils, picking up the final two points with a kill and an ace.
"We talked about keeping it in perspective, staying on them and not looking at the scoreboard," said Gray. "Coach [Wasielewski] said, 'Don't look at the scoreboard, look at and read the play. Play volleyball.'"
The Blue Devils bolted out 10-1 to start the final frame as NC State committed six attack errors in the first 11 points. Duke finished off the come-from-behind victory in fitting fashion with Gray and rookie Breanna Atkinson teaming up for the block.
"It is great that they hung tough mentally and really focused on each point," added Nagel. "They didn't get excited or frustrated, but they just hung tough. I am really proud of them for being able to do that."
Duke begins November on the road, heading north to Boston College and Maryland next weekend. The Blue Devils face the Eagles at 7 p.m., November 2 before taking on the Terrapins at 2 p.m., November 4.
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