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Duke loses ground in ACC race

Christiana Gray’s .583 hitting percentage helped Duke beat Miami Sunday.
Christiana Gray’s .583 hitting percentage helped Duke beat Miami Sunday.

After a disappointing loss against No. 16 Florida State (22-2, 13-1 in the ACC) and a strong win against Miami (15-9, 8-6), Duke comes back to Durham both eager to work on what can be improved and proud of what it accomplished.

Facing the Seminoles for the second time this season, the Blue Devils started the match hungry for an upset. Duke came out strong in the first game with a 25-22 win, but Florida State responded to the loss with statement wins, taking the following two games 25-19 and 25-13. Duke recovered to win the fourth, 25-21, sending the contest to a fifth game. Yet despite Duke’s efforts at a comeback, the Seminoles won 15-11 to maintain ACC supremacy.

While the match was challenging, sophomore setter Kellie Catananch successfully used her outside hitters and sent a combined 101 attacks to Rachael Moss and Sophia Dunworth. Dunworth ended the match with 15 kills while Moss finished with 20 for her ninth double-double of the season. Although the duo put up impressive numbers, Dunworth commented on how the success on the outside was an entire team effort.

“I think we were connecting really well with Kellie [Catanach] and the outsides were working really well this weekend,” Dunworth said. “But I also think that the middles did a great job of pulling blockers, which made it easier for the outsides. Also the coaches did a great job of telling us where to place our hits and we did a good job of executing.”

The Blue Devils (22-5, 12-3) effectively dominated Miami Sunday and controlled play in a convincing 3-0 win. Game scores of 25-17, 25-12 and 25-18 sent a message to ACC opponents that the Blue Devils are serious competitors who refuse to let a loss affect future play. Moss had another solid match with 11 kills, three aces and eight digs. Middle blockers Christiana Gray and Becci Burling added in eight and six kills, respectively, and Gray finished the match with a .583 hitting percentage and seven blocks. Burling and Gray’s efforts in the middle made it difficult for Miami to successfuly work its offense.

Head coach Jolene Nagel was impressed with the Blue Devils’ ability focus on the Hurricanes and stressed the importance of keeping post-season play in mind.

“I’m very proud how the team came out against Miami,” Nagel said. “They executed after a disappointing loss. They came out beautifully against Miami, played with confidence and came together. It’s really easy to get tired of being around each other, and I think the team is managing that very well. We would have loved to get the Florida State match, but I think if we continue to stick together and keep working hard to get better, we are going to be successful in the postseason.”

The Blue Devils head to the state of Virginia next weekend to face Virginia Tech and Virginia.

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