After going down 2-0, the Blue Devils desperately needed to gain momentum to prevent being buried by Virginia Tech.
Standout play from redshirt junior Leah Meyer, graduate student Andie Shelton and sophomore Payton Schwantz provided that momentum.
Duke defeated the Hokies 3-2 (20-25, 19-25, 25-23, 25-23, 16-14) Sunday afternoon at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va. The victory marked the Blue Devils’ third straight five-set comeback win on the road in the ACC. While the Duke offense was sharp, the Blue Devil defense played the biggest role in stymying Virginia Tech’s play. The Duke defense combined for 30 blocks to a meager Hokie 12, led by seven from Meyer and six from junior Samantha Amos.
“[In the last three sets] our defense and our block started to be more patient,” head coach Jolene Nagel said. “We were then able to string points together. What I loved is that we were able to chip away and hang in there mentally and have our wits about us to adjust our block and our setting.”
In addition to her team-high seven blocks, Meyer had a blistering hitting percentage of .478, knocking down 12 kills. This marked Meyer’s 12th career match with double-digit kills. The Clarence, N.Y., native also tallied seven or more blocks for the fourth time in the past five matches.
Shelton also posted a strong performance, hitting .385 for the match along with 17 kills, 27 assists, eight digs and four blocks on the afternoon. Two more digs would have given Shelton her fourth triple-double on the season. Schwantz also added fourteen kills, including four in the fifth set.
“Payton has been great,” Nagel added. “She does so many things with her defense, her passing and her offense, it iss remarkable how efficient she is with the workload she carries.”
Virginia Tech (13-9, 4-6 ACC) came strong out of the gates, knocking down six aces over the first two frames to win both of them. Duke had more kills during that span in addition to a higher overall hitting percentage, but was simply unable to convert towards the end of the sets.
The Blue Devils (11-8, 5-5) began their recovery in the third set, with Shelton and Amos combining for eight kills and no errors. The Blue Devils came out to a slow start as the Hokies led 6-1 out of the gates, but recovered to tie it 13-13 thanks to freshman Ade Owokoniran’s eigth kill of the game.
A block from Lily Cooper and Schwantz gave Duke the 15-14 lead and the Blue Devils continued the momentum, establishing a 18-15 lead while holding Virginia Tech to a .083 hitting percentage. Schwantz sealed the set with her tenth kill of the match as Duke won it 25-23.
The fourth set was similarly down to the wire, as the set started out tied 8-8. An Amos and Meyer block gave the Blue Devils an 11-8 lead. The 25-23 victory forced a fifth set, and Duke trailed 13-11 before a 5-1 run that sealed the match on the back of two blocks and two Shelton kills.
“Today was a great team effort,” said head coach Jolene Nagel. “We have had our times where we came up short, but we have proven these past three road matches how capable we are of persevering after being down. That iss a really great sign.”
The match puts the Blue Devils one above the Hokies in the ACC standings and maintains their position in seventh. Next weekend, Duke is hosting Virginia and No. 6 Pittsburgh at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
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