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UNC spikes Duke in comeback

Energized by a boisterous crowd, the Blue Devils came out and built a one game lead on North Carolina in their ACC opener. The momentum shifted, however, midway through the second game and the Tar Heels went on to an easy victory in four games. Head coach Jolene Nagel said the team stopped being aggressive and the passing broke down after game one.

The Blue Devils came out looking like a team that had just won nine straight matches, but by the end of the second game against North Carolina Tuesday night the Tar Heels were picking apart the Duke defense.

After winning the first game, the Blue Devils (9-3, 0-1 in the ACC) proceeded to drop the next three games, allowing the visiting Tar Heels (6-6, 1-0) to run away with a four-set victory, 26-30, 30-23, 30-25 and 30-20.

“We weren’t as aggressive after game one,” head coach Jolene Nagel said. “Our passing and serve receive broke down a little bit. They became much more aggressive, which helped lift their game.”

Even though a crowd that filled most of the lower level at Cameron Indoor Stadium tried to push the Blue Devils to victory, the momentum shifted mid way through the second game, and North Carolina never looked back. Duke staked itself to an early 10-5 lead in the second, but North Carolina swiftly responded with a 9-3 run backed by heavy hitting and a porous Duke defense.

For the Tar Heels, outside hitters Dani Nyenhius and Molly Pyles racked up 20 and 16 kills, respectively. The Blue Devil defense could not match the speed and power of their opponents, often getting to blocks late and preventing their defense from getting points going.

Compounding the team’s troubles, Duke’s passing was imprecise after the first game.

“I feel like our passing broke down, which was not an issue in game one, and if you don’t have that you can’t side-out much,” Nagel said. “We kept trying to make adjustments the whole time, working with our blocks and defense.”

North Carolina went on several lengthy runs to close out the second game by a wide margin. Duke made some minor line-up changes between the second and third to try to shore up its right-side attack while the match was still close.

The Blue Devils hung close for much of the third game, even tying it up late. Some of the Duke fans began jumping up and down and screaming to distract North Carolina’s servers, and for a while the Blue Devils seemed to respond to the charged atmosphere. After a North Carolina time out, the Tar Heels went on a 7-2 run to close out the third game that included several big hits and a couple of Duke miscues.

A lengthy fire-alarm delayed the start of the fourth, causing a majority of the fans to exit and allowing both teams the chance to regroup before the fourth.

North Carolina took advantage of the respite and came out strong again in the fourth. The Tar Heels tallied 12 straight points in the middle of the fourth, causing both coaches to substitute in several bench players.

“I don’t feel like we gave up, but I do feel like we acted like we didn’t have any control,” Nagel said. “We need to understand that we always have control over how we pass and serve.”

Duke tacked on points after the game and match had already been decided, and the final score was less lopsided than the play of the two teams indicated. During most of the fourth game, the Duke defense appeared to be disorganized.

This was in stark contrast to the first game, when the Blue Devils controlled the net, allowing the back line defense to make a few sprawling digs. Freshman Jenny Shull led the team with six digs during the first game and had 14 overall. Freshman Carrie DeMange, who earned ACC Player of the week honors, led Duke with 15 kills, six of which were in the first game.

With the loss, Duke falls a point behind early in the run for this year’s Carlyle Cup—the all-sport competition between Duke and North Carolina. A new athletic department student booster club, the Inferno, drummed up student support for the year’s first matchup with North Carolina.

“I was really excited about the fan support. We’re very disappointed we didn’t pull off the ‘W’ for the fans,” Nagel said. “Obviously this is a huge rivalry but I don’t want that to be an issue for our team. I want our team to play with composure and be aggressive against any opponent.”

They Blue Devils next play Maryland at home Friday night in another conference tilt.

“This is just the first [league] competition we’ve seen,” said Nagel. “We’re going to pick ourselves up and come back fighting, I can tell you that much.”


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