Duke had little difficulty easing past Liberty and Utah State Friday, but the squad was tested when it took on South Carolina Saturday in Cameron Indoor Stadium during the final match of the Duke Invitational. Overcoming some difficulties in the second set, the Blue Devils defeated the Gamecocks 3-1 to cap off the weekend with their third straight victory.
“It really feels great,” sophomore Maggie Deichmeister said. “I know this was one of the first matches that we’ve really been challenged, and we pushed back. It was a really good win for us.”
Sophomore Elizabeth Campbell led the charge with 25 kills against the Gamecocks (5-4), tying her career high. She recorded 10 kills in the first set alone, including a clean putaway for set point, which allowed Duke (7-2) to take the stanza 25-22.
Deichmeister put up big numbers in the assist category, as well as posting 12 digs. She finished the match with a season-high 56 assists for her third double-double so far this season. Between Campbell and Deichmeister, the Blue Devils could always count on a kill when it mattered most.
“[Campbell] is just one of the toughest people I know,” Deichmeister said. “You can see the look in her eyes, and I know she just wants the ball. She’s very reliable and I know that in a tight situation, I can give her the ball and she’s going to put it down regardless.”
The Blue Devils rallied back from an 18-17 deficit in the first set, but struggled to maintain their momentum, getting down early on in the second frame, and the offense was unable to execute effectively against the South Carolina block.
The Gamecocks limited Duke to a match-low .114 hitting percentage, with eight of South Carolina's 14 blocks coming in the second stanza. The Blue Devils dropped their first set of the year at home, falling to the Gamecocks
“I think we really had to work out there,” Duke head coach Jolene Nagel said. “South Carolina did a good job of forcing us into making some errors, but I really think that we adjusted well and that we were able to finish strong.”
In set three, Duke emerged from the locker room and made the necessary adjustments to bounce back. Taking advantage of South Carolina's short serves and aggressive block, the Blue Devils led throughout the third set and took it 25-17.
“We talked about the fact that we had too many hitting errors,” Nagel said. “We were getting quiet on the court and we really needed to go after it more. We needed to be aggressive. We needed to want it, and we needed to start a fire for ourselves. We need everyone’s energy, on the court and on the sidelines, to push through and get this match.”
The Blue Devils carried their momentum into the fourth set, taking the final stanza 25-21 to knock off the Gamecocks.
The squad made up for its second-set shortcomings, limiting its attack errors to just seven in the final two frames. The team hit for .455 with help from junior Jeme Obemie and sophomore Emily Sklar who posted 17 and 13 kills, respectively.
“I love the way they came out in game three and really fought and put some pressure on them,” Nagel said. “I think that was huge.”
The Blue Devils hope to continue their win-streak as they welcome Indiana and Illinois to Cameron Indoor Stadium next weekend.
Deichmeister shared that the team has a collective goal not to lose at home this season, but Nagel says that that will require more consistency on the court.
“It was a good test and I’m pleased the way our team persevered," Nagel said. "I think when our backs were against the wall, we really rose to the occasion.”