Duke’s offensive firepower was on display Sunday, as the Blue Devils won their ninth straight match.
Sophomore Emily Sklar had 17 kills, junior Jeme Obeime had 15 and senior Chelsea Cook added 11 for the Blue Devils as they defeated Wake Forest in straight sets at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“All of our outsides were able to score, and that was huge for us,” Duke head coach Jolene Nagel said. “Early on in the match I didn’t think [Obeime] was getting many balls, but certainly when she was, she was doing something with them.”
Early in the first set, momentum shifted when junior Maggie Deichmeister recorded back-to-back blocks to give the Blue Devils (13-2, 4-0 in the ACC) an 8-5 advantage. From there, Sklar took over the set. The San Jose, Calif., native had eight of Duke’s 17 kills on just 10 attempts in the opening frame, and also added a service ace.
“Blocking is a skill I’ve really been working on,” Deichmeister said. “That was one of our focuses at the beginning of the match, to be disciplined on defensive blocking.”
In set two, Sklar continued her hot hitting, but got plenty of help from Cook and Obeime. Duke jumped out to a 3-1 edge, but then the Demon Deacons (13-3, 1-3 ACC) rattled off six straight points. The Blue Devils fought back to regain an 11-10 advantage, then stretched the lead to 18-11 behind blocks from sophomore Elizabeth Campbell and freshman Jordan Tucker, two kills from Campbell and a kill apiece from Sklar and Cook.
The Demon Deacons made another surge, fighting back to 21-18 and 24-22, but Obeime would not allow Wake Forest to take the lead. She had the last four kills for the Blue Devils, and finished the set with seven.
“We play Wake a lot, and they have a lot of fight. They just came off of a five-set comeback, so we really wanted to get this done right away,” Obeime said. “We were running a lot of options offensively and changing things up every set, so I knew I could get some open looks and swing for them and put them down.”
Another highlight from set two involved the ball ricocheting off a Duke player up and into the basketball hoop hanging above the court. The ball came down through the net and Duke was able to continue the rally before Wake Forest recorded a kill.
The Blue Devils pounced all over Wake Forest at the start of the third set, jumping out to an early 7-1 edge before Wake Forest called timeout. Sklar and Cook added two kills apiece and Campbell recorded another block. True to form, Wake Forest climbed back into the contest. Nursing a 17-14 lead, the Blue Devils called timeout, and when play resumed, Obeime came up large again. The Carmel, Ind., product recorded three consecutive kills to give Duke some breathing room, and then tallied two more kills down the stretch.
Sklar finished the match just how she started it, putting down a kill to give the Blue Devils a 25-19 victory.
“[ACC wins] are all so valuable,” Nagel said. “Wake Forest always fights hard, and I’m happy that our team was able to hang tough and not let too many points get away from us as they were doing that, because they are a good defensive team and they are a scrappy team. I was pleased to see our team able to stop some of those runs.”
Although senior Kylie Hargreaves and sophomore Matalee Reed led the Demon Deacons' offense by tallying eight kills and seven kills, respectively, they were unable to bounce back.
Last year, Duke started ACC play 0-4 and finished the season with just six conference wins. The Blue Devils will travel to North Carolina and N.C. State next weekend looking to match that total.
North Carolina and Duke will meet Friday evening on a collision course. The Tar Heels have yet to drop a set this year in conference play, and Duke will put its nine-game winning streak on the line.
“The two of us are one of the few teams undefeated in the ACC, and Duke and Carolina is obviously a big thing for everybody, so we’re really excited,” Obeime said. “We’ll be ready on Friday.”