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Blue Devils squeak by 2 ACC foes in 5 games

A pair of Floridian ACC opponents pushed the volleyball team to the limit this weekend but Duke overpowered its opponents late to emerge victorious in each.

Friday night, the Blue Devils (13-3, 4-1 in the ACC) beat Florida State (8-6, 1-3) in a closely contested match, winning in five games. Duke trailed two games to one, but it won the final two games 30-26, 15-13. Miami (6-5, 2-2) provided an even tougher contest Sunday afternoon, as the score of the fifth and final game was 18-16.

Against the Seminoles, junior Sarah Salem led the offense with 14 kills. On defense, senior Stephanie Istvan paced the Blue Devils with 21 digs and Carrie DeMange recorded six of the team’s 11 blocks. Duke played sloppy volleyball, committing more errors than head coach Jolene Nagel would like to see.

“We didn’t play our best [Friday],” Nagel said. “But we didn’t give up. Our hard work and great effort really helped us a lot.”

The Hurricanes had the Blue Devils on the brink of defeat Sunday. In the fifth game, Miami led 16-15, one point away from victory. Ali Hausfeld set up a Tassy Rufai kill that leveled the score at 16. Tiffany Perry followed with another winner and a DeMange service ace closed out the victory. Nagel said that this ending exemplified the Blue Devils’ teamwork during the match.

“It was just a great team effort,” Nagel said. “Every part of the team is important, so it is not an individual or the same person routinely stepping up.”

Rufai and DeMange each had 19 kills to pace the team and Tealle Hunkus had 18. On defense, Pixie Levanas rose up for nine blocks and Hausfeld had six. Nagel said she was very impressed with her team’s defense against the Hurricanes.

“We really played better defense and blocked a lot better on Sunday,” Nagel said. “We also communicated a lot better and moved the ball around more than on Friday.”

The match against the Seminoles, Duke’s first five-game match of the season, helped prepare the Blue Devils to go the distance only two days later against Miami.

“Even though [a fifth game] is a painful situation to be in, we’re going to benefit from it,” Nagel said. “We really hung tough [Friday] and worked together and kept being aggressive, and it brought our team closer together. It was our first five-game match, but our kids weren’t thinking about that. They were just thinking about getting the next point.”

Beyond helping the team’s confidence, the two wins are very important for the Blue Devils for other reasons, coach Nagel said.

“These are both great wins for us—two ACC wins on the road—when every win is a tough one in the ACC,” Nagel said. “Also, we only get to play each of these teams once, so these wins could be very helpful in terms of tiebreakers and seeding at the end of the season.”

The Blue Devils hope to apply the same effort and continue to build their confidence this weekend when they host ACC foes Clemson and Georgia Tech.


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