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Duke volleyball takes back-to-back matches against FSU and Miami

Duke continued to make its push for first place in the ACC wish a five-set win against Florida State.
Duke continued to make its push for first place in the ACC wish a five-set win against Florida State.

Cameron got crazy on Friday night and Saturday night. It wasn’t for basketball.

No. 23 Duke won a thrilling showdown against No. 18 Florida State in five sets Friday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, rebounding after losing a tight fourth set 25-23 to win the final set 15-9. Less than 24 hours later, the Blue Devils swept Miami 3-0 Saturday for their ninth conference victory. With back-to-back wins, Duke pushed its way ahead of the Seminoles and now holds a tiebreaker over North Carolina for first place in the ACC.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the way we hung in there tonight and fought for each point,” head coach Jolene Nagel said after Duke's win against Florida State. “Both teams played very hard, both teams were deserving of getting that win tonight. The fact that we hung in there and kept plugging away—I’m really proud of them for that. One thing that really helped us was the great crowd.”

The Blue Devils (18-3, 9-1 in the ACC) got timely contributions from many players in both contests but were once again led by senior defense specialist and libero Ali McCurdy. McCurdy was honored before the Florida State (15-6, 8-2) game after becoming Duke’s career leader in digs a week ago at Georgia Tech with 2,253. She added 26 more against the Seminoles and 15 against the Hurricanes.

“We knew Florida State was a very physical team,” McCurdy said after Friday night's contest. “We knew we needed to come out and play hard and we really did that. Throughout all of the sets, we had to make different adjustments and the team really just stuck together and got a great five-set win at home.”

Many other Blue Devils stepped up against the Seminoles, including sophomore middle blocker Elizabeth Campbell, junior outside hitter Jeme Obeime and sophomore outside hitter Emily Sklar. Campbell finished with 16 kills and seven digs, Obeime finished with 13 kills, including six in the crucial third set won 25-23 by the Blue Devils, and Sklar finished with 15 kills and eight digs. Each of the Blue Devils that saw action seemed to have a hand in the victory.

“That’s what we’ve had this year,” Nagel said. “At any given time, we’ve had someone able to step up for us when we’ve been successful. That’s exciting that our team is capable of doing that.”

Duke began getting timely contributions early on, pulling away late in the first set to take the set 25-20 after a powerful Sklar kill. The Seminoles responded by jumping out to a 5-0 lead in the next set before the Blue Devils clawed their way back, but Duke eventually lost it 25-22. With the match tied, the team knew it had to make some adjustments.

“[Florida State was] playing very scrappy,” McCurdy said. “Little things were dropping so we knew we needed to pick up our communication. That was really key for us. After set two, we knew we wanted to eliminate errors and keep playing our game and being the aggressor. We came out and did that.”

The momentum swung back-and-forth between both teams in the fourth set, which was also decided 25-23—this time in favor of Florida State. Senior outside hitter Olivera Medic and freshman outside hitter Izzy Carmona often leading the charge for the Seminoles. Medic finished with 14 kills, 8 of which came in the fourth set that extended the match, and 13 digs and Carmona finished with 12 kills.

The Blue Devils showed their resilience in the fifth set, jumping out to a 10-4 lead and holding on to win the match on their second match point 15-9 in front of highly touted basketball recruits Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor and a sizable crowd.

The Blue Devils dominated the Hurricanes (13-7, 6-4) on Saturday night despite the short turnaround, 25-14, 25-18 and 25-20 led by McCurdy, Obeime and Sklar. Obeime had 13 kills and Sklar tied a career-high with 20 kills to hand the Hurricanes their fourth consecutive loss in conference play after they won their first six conference games.

“[We’re] excited to get this one,” said head coach Jolene Nagel following the Miami game. “Miami has some tremendous athletes and they’ve played really well against us over the past few years. Emily [Sklar] and Jeme [Obeime] have been doing a great job for us all year. We’ve made some improvements in other areas, and I think that’s actually taken the pressure off our outsides and allowed them to be more successful.”

Duke now has won 13 of its last 14 games and is tied atop the ACC with No. 14 North Carolina by virtue of the Tar Heels’ wins over Maryland and Pittsburgh this weekend. The Blue Devils beat the Tar Heels in straight sets two weeks ago and will try to remain undefeated at home this season in home contests against Syracuse and Boston College next Friday and Saturday.

“To be at home and have the first set go like that, it gave our team confidence,” Nagel said after the Miami game. “What I liked is that our team didn’t relax and stop playing defense or stop blocking. We did a good job of maintaining that intensity throughout the match.”

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