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Duke volleyball drops five-set marathon to Miami in third straight defeat

<p>Cadie Bates led the Blue Devils with 18 kills in the loss.</p>

Cadie Bates led the Blue Devils with 18 kills in the loss.

Looking to bounce back after a disappointing weekend, Duke was not able to regroup in a match abundant with opportunities. The tide turned in favor of the Hurricanes late, and the Blue Devils squandered an early lead to drop their third straight.

Miami defeated Duke in a long five-set match Friday evening 25-21, 23-25, 25-23, 18-25, 10-15. Although senior Emma Paradiso set a career high with 36 assists, Duke was unable to take the deciding frame to win its first of two matches this weekend in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

“[It was a] long, emotional match,” Duke head coach Jolene Nagel said. “It was certainly a disappointment for us, no doubt about it.”

This disappointment took shape after the teams headed to the locker room with the Blue Devils (11-7, 3-4 in the ACC) holding a two-sets-to-one lead. Upon returning, the tides shifted and the Hurricanes took the final two sets to clinch the conference victory to avenge a five-set loss to Nagel's team 11 months ago.

The first set was a representative display of Duke’s 11 wins thus far in the season. The Hurricanes (10-3, 4-3) took an early 7-3 lead, but as Duke showed often in this match, any lead was never safe. With a block from senior Anna Kropf and classmate Cadie Bates, the Blue Devils pulled within one at 11-10, and they appeared to notch the match at 15 apiece according to the scoreboard inside Cameron Indoor Stadium. However, after an official timeout that lasted nearly 10 minutes, the score was corrected to read 16-14 in favor of Miami.

“This team keeps fighting.... There are some things that we can do a little better over and over again. Sometimes we’re a little inconsistent,” Nagel said. “If we find the discipline we need to be able to not let something—one little thing—slip on our discipline, on our defense, I think that will help us a lot.”

A service ace by freshman Summer Brown leveled the set at 17-17. After a block from Samantha Amos and Kropf, Duke took a lead and didn’t look back. With the Blue Devils holding on to a 21-19 lead, junior Kelli Kalinoski saved the ball to a diving Paradiso, who passed it to senior Nicole Elattrache and over the net. On set point, Miami’s Olga Strantzali’s attack went deep, resulting in a 25-21 first-set victory for Duke.

“The hitters were being really smart with the balls and I think that we really focused on kind of helping each other out and talking to each other during the play,” Paradiso said. “Our back row did a really good job of letting our hitters know what was open.”

The second set was similar to the first. Miami jumped out to a 15-11 advantage, which soon ballooned to a 19-12 lead. But, as was the case throughout, Nagel’s team responded with a run of its own. Bates capped off a 7-0 run with a soft kill down the line, as Duke seized a 23-22 advantage, but Miami took the final three points to win the set off a kill by Brooke McDermott. 

Duke attacked its strongest in the third set, hitting at a .302 clip and holding Miami to a mere .190 rate. An Amos block gave Duke a one-point lead at 16-15, but the Hurricanes regained the advantage at 22-21. However, the Blue Devils responded with a 4-1 run to close out the set, as Schwantz killed the ball off the side of a Miami defender’s hand on set point.

“We made it an uphill battle for [ourselves] a little bit early in the match with some of our unforced errors,” Nagel said. “They are working very hard. I think that we will get better as a result of it. We need to be able to finish a bit better.”

Nagel certainly hoped her team would finish better when Duke took the floor after two set wins. However, Miami changed its game plan in the locker room, and Nagel’s team was unable to respond. The Blue Devil hitting rate took a major dip from attacking at a minimum of .243 throughout the first three sets. Duke hit .149 and .043 in the fourth and deciding fifth sets, respectively.

“I think they made some adjustments, moved some things around in their lineup that took away what was working for us,” Nagel said. “We had some things going for us and they made an adjustment in their lineup and it stopped what we were doing. We weren’t able to try something different.”

Miami raced out to a 9-6 advantage in the fourth set, but was unable to take a commanding lead. Duke pulled within two at 20-18 following a kill from Amos, but a vibrant “Let’s Go Duke” chant coming out of a Blue Devil timeout could not stop the Hurricanes. Miami closed out the set on a 5-0 run, capped by a McDermott kill.

“We can’t put ourselves in holes like that because it is just so hard to dig ourselves out,” Nagel said. “That will be real progress, and hopefully we can benefit from that as we move forward. We have a lot of volleyball left to play.”

The deciding set to 15 points followed a similar dynamic. The Hurricanes looked to take the set and match easily, jumping to a 9-4 lead. However, Nagel’s team did not let its opponent walk away without a fight . Duke cut the Hurricane advantage to 9-8, and although Miami then took three points in a row, a Schwantz kill down the line brought the team on the brink of a comeback, down 12-10. But the Hurricanes did not give in and won the last three points to clinch a road victory.

Duke was without two key players, sophomore Natalie Schilling and junior Leah Meyer, a preseason All-ACC selection.

“The only thing that our team can do is to stick together as a team, pull together as a team and help each other get better each and every day in practice,” Nagel said. “Our team certainly has taken its hit on the injuries. But, at the same time, we’ve got to play volleyball and we've got to go out there and compete.”

Duke must flush this loss away quickly, as Nagel’s team will take the court again Sunday at 1 p.m. against Florida State, also at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

“The first thing that we need to do is bounce back from this game,” Paradiso said. “We did some really good things that we can learn from and build upon, but we need to study FSU as hard as we did Miami and then put in the work come game time.”


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