Trailing by as many as seven points in its second game versus College of Charleston, Duke (9-2) launched an exciting comeback, allowing the Blue Devils to extend their winning streak to nine games. The victory over the home team Cougars (7-4) Saturday was the final win a three-match sweep of the College of Charleston Tournament. Earlier Duke beat East Carolina and Georgia State, each in straight games.
“The team is playing really steady right now,” said head coach Jolene Nagel, who earned her 100th victory at Duke when the Blue Devils topped College of Charleston. “It’s been a total team effort as opposed to individuals. The girls have a really great team attitude.”
The Blue Devils took on a highly charged Cougars team, which entered the game with a seven-game winning streak. Duke took the first game easily, but College of Charleston capitalized on the home court advantage to stay ahead of Duke for nearly half the second game. The momentum changed when Nagel called a timeout, after which the Blue Devils surged ahead to produce another win. Duke went on to take the third game 30-23 to complete the sweep.
“We got through some problems with communication in the second game and were able to continue to be aggressive,” Nagel said. “I was really pleased with the girls’ efforts.”
Freshman Carrie DeMange lead the offense with 21 kills in the match. Junior Tiffany Perry and senior Tassy Rufai also offered major contributions, each tallying 10 kills. Seniors Stephanie Istvan, Erin Noble and Rufai were the backbone of a solid defense, helping to hold the Cougars to a low .234 hitting percentage.
Duke began the weekend strong with back-to-back victories over East Carolina (6-7) and Georgia State (3-9). The Blue Devils’ clean play proved to be the decisive factor in the match, as Duke committed only three errors while the Tigers Pirates’ 18 miscues.
Duke also took out Georgia State in three straight games, during which the Blue Devils never trailed the Panthers. The Duke offense was nearly untouchable, aided by 11 service aces in the match. Duke also demonstrated the depth of its team, as all 14 players competed for the first time this season.
“It’s nice to know that we can make some adjustments and still have a comparable team effort,” Nagel said of the decision to use so many players in the Georgia State match.
Duke returns home to play North Carolina in its first ACC matchup of the season 7 p.m. Tuesday in Cameron Indoor Stadium. Although the Blue Devils will face the Tar Heels twice this season, only this first match will count for the ACC standings.
“[The players] have been bringing it to every match, and if we continue to bring the mental component of our game to back up the physical part, we should do really well in our ACC season,” Nagel said.
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