The independent news organization of Duke University

Spikers deal trio of knockouts

The volleyball team was perfect this weekend.

Duke (5-2) swept all three teams it faced in the Duke Invitational. The Blue Devils defeated South Carolina, Towson and Northern Illinois by 3-0 margins and have now won 15 consecutive games, dating back to last weekend’s win over Villanova.

“We definitely came together this weekend,” senior Tassy Rufai said. “We’ve been practicing hard this week. It’s good to be back in Durham—we’ve definitely gelled as a team.”

The period of growing pains for Duke’s freshmen seem to have ended—the Blue Devils received several key contributions from their younger members. The standout star of the tournament was freshman Carrie DeMange, who recorded 49 kills and earned Tournament MVP honors.

“The freshmen have blended very well,” head coach Jolene Nagel said. “I think everyone’s gaining each other’s respect.”

The Blue Devils started the tournament Friday night against South Carolina. The final 3-0 outcome belied how close the match actually was—all three games were tight. Duke pulled away from 19-17, 16-16 and 26-23 margins in game one through three respectively to secure the victory.

The following afternoon, the Blue Devils started their match against Towson with a suspenseful 35-33 opening game that saw six lead changes. Duke opened its next game by falling behind 2-9 to its opponent, but rebounded from the rocky start to win the next two games 30-23, 30-21. The Blue Devils exhibited a well-balanced offense against the Tigers—DeMange and sophomore Tealle Hunkus led the team with 12 kills each, and Rufai contributed 10 more of her own.

“When we went 35-33 against Towson, I was really pleased that we didn’t become conservative—we kept playing aggressive and going after them,” Nagel said.

The Blue Devils capped the tournament with a dominating victory over Northern Illinois. DeMange quickly stole the spotlight against the Huskies—the top-50 recruit from Dayton, Ohio racked up 23 kills against Northern Illinois. The freshman recorded zero hitting errors in the contest and finished with a .676 percentage.

“[DeMange was] unbelievable,” Nagel said. “She’s doing great things. She has an innate ability when it comes to timing, and she’s also very aggressive. She’s able to do amazing things with the ball—she had zero hitting errors.”

Duke progressively improved its hitting percentage over the weekend. The team recorded a .163 percentage against South Carolina, .200 against Towson and .348 against Northern Illinois.

“Our hitting was definitely pretty good, but we also passed really well,” DeMange said. “You have to pass well in order to hit well.”

The Blue Devils’ defense, which had been a weak point in their opening matches this season, was also much improved this weekend. Duke’s defense at the net was stalwart; the Blue Devils recorded 25.5 kills over the three matches. DeMange led her team in this statistic as well—the freshman earned three solo blocks and assisted on 10 others.

“We did improve on our blocking this weekend for sure,” Nagel said. “We worked on it a lot this week, and we’re going to continue to work on it. I definitely saw much improvement in our blocking this week compared to where we were a week ago.”


Share and discuss “Spikers deal trio of knockouts” on social media.