After dominating performances against conference opponents Wake Forest and Georgia Tech, the Blue Devils could not hold onto their ACC winning streak.

Duke lost 3-1 (17-25, 18-25, 25-22, 17-25) to Syracuse at Cameron Indoor Stadium Thursday evening. Freshman Payton Schwantz and senior Cadie Bates led the team in kills, with 13 and 12, respectively, in an otherwise abysmal performance for the Blue Devils.

“I don’t think we did what we needed to do very well to stop [Syracuse],” head coach Jolene Nagel said. “I also don’t think we were at the level we needed to be to compete.”

It appeared as though Duke (10-4, 2-1 in the ACC) was not ready to play at the start of the game as it took a Syracuse 7-2 run and a Nagel timeout for the Blue Devils to increase their hit clip to better than .000. This became a pattern for Duke throughout the game, as it would find itself down big in the middle of sets, having to dig itself out of holes.

“We did not come out strong enough at all as a team or as individuals. After a great weekend I think we took it lightly,” Bates said. “We tried to get momentum from the first [set] and carry it on to the rest of the game, but it wasn’t enough.”

The Orange (10-6, 2-1), on the other hand, came out strong against the Blue Devils, gaining leads of at least four points to start each set. After Duke only committed four errors against Georgia Tech Sunday, its 28 miscues compared to Syracuse’s 16 made it nearly impossible for the Blue Devils to gather any momentum to take control of the game. 

Duke’s slow start continued in the third set. As Syracuse went up 15-8, needing only one more set to win the match, it looked all but over for the Blue Devils. But a Bates ace ignited a Duke comeback with the Blue Devils going on an 11-5 run to cut the lead to one point. After a Syracuse timeout, Duke took control of the set, earning its first lead of the night and finally closing out the set 25-22. 

“I had that mindset of, ‘We can’t let this happen, I have to stop waiting for somebody to step up. If I have to be that person then I will,’” Bates said.

After coming alive in the third set, the Blue Devils could not maintain their high energy, and fell behind 7-1 to the Orange in the fourth. Duke did not even threaten to make a run, losing the set and match. This loss showed the team how much harder it has to work going forward to earn wins against well-coached ACC teams like Syracuse.

“I feel like sometimes we take it for granted that we are playing in Cameron,” Bates said. “We have to remind ourselves that this isn’t something we can take lightly and that we have to compete every single game.”

Duke must use this game as a learning experience so that it will not repeat the kind of game it played. The ACC gauntlet is just beginning and the Blue Devils have a chance to bounce back against top-level competition for the remainder of the season.

“This team has been great about getting better,” Nagel said. “We just have to expect a little bit more out of ourselves in order to be ready to compete every night.”

Duke plays Boston College Sunday afternoon at home in another conference match, looking to rebound after its disappointing loss.