DURHAM, N.C. – Eagle outside hitter Juliana Crum notched a double-double to lead American to a 3-0 (25-23, 26-24, 25-22) second-round victory over the 14th-ranked Duke volleyball team in NCAA Tournament play Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
Crum led five Eagles in double-digit digs with 21 to pace a defense which held Duke’s potent offense to a .110 hitting percentage. Crum also tallied 11 kills as American (34-2) totaled 46 on the night compared to 39 kills for the Blue Devils. Outside hitter Kristyna Lindovska totaled a match-high 13 kills, while middle blocker Kelly McCaddin also chipped in with 10.
“This team has had an incredible year,” said head coach Jolene Nagel. “I know that we’re all extremely disappointed that we didn’t play our absolute best tonight, but American University played great defense. They did an excellent job controlling the ball, getting the ball to their hitters that they wanted. Both the first two sets were very tight, and I think we made too many errors. We had moments where we were flowing and communicating and controlling the ball like we’d like to, but then we’d have some stints there that we needed to get a side out a little bit sooner in order to get back some momentum on our side.”
Outside hitters Emily Sklar and Jeme Obeime provided the bulk of the Duke (28-5) offense with 11 kills apiece, while sophomore Elizabeth Campbell added nine. Sklar recorded her 10th double-double of the season, contributing 13 digs as well.
Defensively, Duke libero Ali McCurdy did her best to limit the Eagle offense, picking up a match-high 24 digs. The ACC’s all-time digs leader, she finished her career with 2,538 digs, becoming just the 12th player in NCAA history to top 2,500 digs for a career.
American opened the match with an early three-point lead and maintained the advantage throughout set one. Despite seven kills from outside hitter Jeme Obeime, Duke was never able to find its rhythm offensively in a 25-23 opening frame setback. Down 23-19, the Blue Devils fought back to tie the game at 23-23 after back-to-back Obeime kills, but American utilized a Smidova kill and final block to seal the victory.
Duke again found itself down early in the second set, and once again the Blue Devils rallied. A Jordan Tucker block and an Obeime kill capped a 7-2 Duke run, putting the Blue Devils on top 21-18. The Eagles clawed their way back into the frame, tying it at 23 on a Lindovska kill. Sklar put down the kill to give Duke the 24-23 edge, but McCaddin registered the solo stop and final kill to clinch the 26-24 Eagle win.
The Blue Devils stormed out to a 9-2 advantage in the third before the Eagles put together a 15-1 stretch to take a daunting 17-10 lead. Duke continued to fight, battling to within a point at 23-22 after consecutive Chelsea Cook-Obeime blocks. However, American regrouped and sealed its trip to the Sweet 16 with a pair of Lindovska kills.
The Eagles move on to face top-seeded Texas, which defeated Texas State and Texas A&M in the first and second rounds, respectively.
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