In a season riddled with injuries and plagued by a tough travel schedule, the Blue Devils hoped to cap their road slate with a win, but ran out of steam.
Duke fell at Syracuse 3-1 (25-20, 19-25, 24-26, 21-25) Sunday afternoon at the Women’s Building in Syracuse, N.Y., despite a dominant first set. The Blue Devils failed to win another set, even with four players with double-digit kills and three with double-digit digs.
The senior duo of Cadie Bates and Nicole Elattrache led Duke with star performances. Bates finished with 18 kills, 13 digs and a .333 hitting clip, and Elattrache pitched in a team-high 16 digs.
"Cadie has had a great year, being able to produce offensively, play those six rotations in addition to being the primary serve receiver for us,” head coach Jolene Nagel said. “Nicole was her typical—very steady and good defensively. She kept us in a lot of it.”
Bates was one of four Blue Devils to tally more than 10 kills along with freshman Payton Schwantz, sophomore Samantha Amos and junior Jessi Bartholomew. It was Schwantz's 21st match of the season with more than 10 kills, and she finished the day with 11.
Leading Duke in hitting percentage, Anna Kropf hit .357 en route to a seven-kill, three-block performance.
Tied 15-15 in the first set, redshirt freshman Sarah Nelson facilitated three straight Blue Devil points behind the service line to fuel a 7-2 run. A subsequent block gave Duke a 22-17 advantage, and Syracuse was unable to recover.
In the second set, the Orange took advantage of a slow Blue Devil start, going up 14-8. Duke (17-12, 9-9 in the ACC) brought it within three points at 16-19 thanks to kills from Bates and Schwantz, but ultimately was overpowered by Syracuse and fell 25-19.
With 17 ties and eight lead changes, the third set was the pivotal battle in the match. After being down 23-21, two straight kills from Schwantz and Bartholomew tied it at 23. The Blue Devils fought off a set point to tie it again at 24, but the Orange (19-12, 11-7) took the set behind two straight points from junior Jalissa Trotter.
“The third set could have gone either way. It was disappointing not to get that one,” Nagel said. “We were battling, then they picked up their serving a little bit and we dropped some efficiency in our passing. We were right in that, but we didn’t handle the serve receive as well as we needed to at the end.”
Duke came out strong in the fourth set, battling Syracuse point for point up to a tie at 11. A 9-2 Orange run propelled the home team to a 21-13 lead. Despite the Blue Devils fending off three straight match points, Syracuse took the set.
“The team is a special team—they work hard every day. I really attribute that to our seniors and how they really get everybody on the same page,” Nagel said. “Our team has continued to fight and to get better. We know we could have gotten this one today, so all we have to do is to sustain our discipline a little longer to finish the season. They know how close they are to getting games like this.”
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