Despite rallying after being down two sets to none to bring the match to 2-2, Duke was not able to carry that momentum into the fifth set and lost in a five-set battle to ACC foe Miami Saturday.
The Blue Devils rounded off their home schedule for the season with a 12-25, 21-25, 25-23, 25-19, 14-16 loss to the Hurricanes.
In what was the last home game for the three graduating seniors Christiana Gray, Nailah Waterfield and Megan Hendrickson, Duke (14-15, 5-12 in ACC) almost scripted a fairytale comeback against its higher-ranked opponent.
“We have been a work in progress along the way and I think tonight our team showed some of that progress,” head coach Jolene Nagel said. “We were down 2-0 against a really good team, so to find that something inside of us to keep fighting – that’s a huge statement about our team.”
The Blue Devils were outmatched on the offensive by an extremely lethal Miami (23-4, 15-2) attack that outkilled Duke 32-20 on the match.
But the Blue Devils, who notched big numbers from freshman Elizabeth Campbell, fought back in the third and fourth sets to instigate an improbable rally. It took a tight third set before Campbell’s run of 11 straight kills midway through the fourth set sealed a 25-19 set win.
Duke, however, lost the fifth set after leading 14-12 and needing just one point to clinch the victory. Instead, Miami rattled off four unanswered points to steal the win.
Campbell ended the game with a career high 25 kills while also contributing 10 digs, four blocks and three aces in a superlative performance against the ACC’s top defensive unit.
“Wow, quite a night,” Nagel said. “Elizabeth was really solid for us tonight and she has been for most of the season. That is exciting to see her have those kinds of numbers because she has worked very hard. She’s a smart player and that all came together tonight. She is very competitive. You can see it in her face. You can see it in her demeanor. She really wanted this match tonight. She was going to do everything in her power to get it done. That’s just how she plays.” Despite picking up a loss, Nagel was able to point out many positives in her team’s play. “We found a rhythm in our service today and were more efficient. Our center made good choices and the hitters were aggressive.”
This rhythm came from sophomore Kelsey Williams and junior Ali McCurdy. Williams distributed 44 assists to go along with a career high 21 digs while McCurdy led both teams with 27 digs.
“It would be really easy to be discouraged or to maybe not give as great of effort, time in and time out because we haven’t had as many ‘W’s’ as we would like to see,” Nagel added. “They continue to work hard every day in practice. They continue to challenge each other and support each other at the same time, which is a difficult thing to do. I think tonight was a great example of how this team has worked and I am proud of them for that.”