DURHAM, N.C. – All-ACC outside hitter Jeme Obeime put down a career-high 19 kills to lead the 14th-ranked Duke volleyball team past College of Charleston 3-1 (25-14, 25-8, 23-25, 25-19) in the opening round of the NCAA Volleyball Championship in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Obeime led a contingent of three Blue Devils in double-digit kills as Duke (28-4, 18-2 ACC) posted a .325 hitting percentage on the night. Sophomore Elizabeth Campbell amassed 15 kills, while ACC Player of the Year Emily Sklar dropped 10 to pace an effective Blue Devil attack.
With the win, the Blue Devils advance to the tournament’s second round for the 10th time in program history. Duke now faces American Saturday, Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. in Cameron. The winner of Saturday’s match moves on to the Sweet 16 and faces top-seeded Texas in Lincoln, Neb.
In the program’s eighth NCAA Tournament appearance, College of Charleston (25-6, 13-1 CAA) had no answer for the Blue Devils in the opening two frames. Duke accumulated 24 kills on .465 hitting in the first and second sets to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Despite the deficit, the Cougars made it close in the end, winning the third set and taking Duke to the wire in the fourth.
“It was a great win,” said senior Ali McCurdy. “We came out and pushed really hard in the first two sets. The third set we didn’t bring the same intensity and College of Charleston came out really strong at us. I think once we picked up our overall intensity, we were in a better position.”
For most of the night, Duke stifled the Cougar offense, limiting the squad to a .091 clip for the match. The Blue Devils racked up 14.0 blocks, compared to 2.0 for College of Charleston, and out dug the Cougars, 65-48. Three-time ACC Defensive Player of the Year Ali McCurdy led all players with 23 digs, while junior All-ACC setter Maggie Deichmeister picked up 15 to go along with 41 assists. In addition, freshman middle blocker Jordan Tucker set a career-high with eight blocks.
“We started off playing really, really solid volleyball – executing, we were communicating, we were taking chances and we were really going after it,” said head coach Jolene Nagel. “I think the communication broke down a little bit. [College of Charleston] changed some things offensively, but we really stopped being the aggressor. We were able to bring it back together and execute better in the fourth set.”
Duke bolted out to an early 8-3 lead and never looked back in the opening frame, taking the set 25-14. Obeime totaled five kills without committing an error to lead a Blue Devil attack that hit .400.
The Blue Devils continued to click on all cylinders in a 25-8 set two victory. Duke registered a .556 hitting percentage and totaled 6.0 blocks to limit the Cougars to a -.071 clip.
College of Charleston fought back in the third game, ultimately taking the stanza 25-23. Cara Howley and Melissa Morello both knocked down five kills to lead the Cougars. Charleston built a three-point margin which it was able to maintain late into the game. Duke cut the lead to 24-23 on an Obeime kill, but the Cougars leaned on Howley to finish the frame with a kill.
Obeime accumulated seven kills in the final stanza to clinch the victory for Duke. Tied at 19-19, Duke won the final six points, including two service aces from senior Chelsea Cook.
Howley and Morello added 10 kills each to pace the Cougars on offense, while libero Andi Zbojniewicz contributed a team-high 15 digs.
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