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Lizzie Fleming leads Duke volleyball past Virginia Tech as Blue Devils win both weekend matches

<p>Senior middle blocker Lizzie Fleming recorded seven kills and no errors against Virginia Tech.&nbsp;</p>

Senior middle blocker Lizzie Fleming recorded seven kills and no errors against Virginia Tech. 

Lizzie Fleming was licensed to kill Sunday in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

The senior middle blocker literally hit double-o-seven against Virginia Tech, tallying seven kills and zero errors for a .700 efficiency.

The Blue Devils took home two games this weekend in straight sets, defeating Virginia Tech (25-22, 25-22, 25-17) Sunday afternoon after also sweeping Wake Forest (25-15, 25-21, 25-21) Friday evening. Both games featured Fleming dominating the net—she put up a season-high 10 blocks against Wake Forest Friday, as well as seven kills and three blocks Sunday against Virginia Tech.

Fleming was vital in a key moment during the second set, when Duke and Virginia Tech were tied 20-20 in the second set. The Blue Devils throughout the season have had trouble pushing through at the end of close sets, but a block and two kills from Fleming gave the Blue Devils the momentum to come out 25-22 and get ready for a more comfortable third set.

Sophomore Georgia Stavrinides took over for Fleming after she rotated out of the front row, putting up 10 kills for the Blue Devils against the Hokies, second to the 13 kills delivered by senior outside hitter Ade Owokoniran. Like Fleming in the second set, Stavrinides was vital in helping Duke finish strong in the first set, securing two of Duke’s final three points of the set with unstoppable attacks from the net.

“I think by being in there ready to get the ball, [Fleming and Stavrinides] helped take the block with them, so our pin hitters didn’t have to have two blockers on them all the time,” head coach Jolene Nagel said. 

Finishing strong in sets is something Nagel previously noted wanting to improve upon, particularly after Duke’s loss to N.C. State in October. Today, she said, Duke (15-10, 6-8 in the ACC) did what it needed to do in critical moments.

“There were some tough times there, I feel like, in set two,” Nagel said of the set. “But I feel like our team calmed down just a little bit and finished strong and did what they were capable of doing. We’ve worked on it all week, and I think we saw some good results today.”

Before the 20-point mark, Stavrinides also helped Duke fight its way through an uneasy second set, which featured seven lead changes, 11 tie scores and a series of unforced errors that gave themomentum to Virginia Tech (10-16, 1-13).

Virginia Tech’s offense reached its peak in the second set of the match, particularly through pin hitters Kellen Morin and Griere Hughes. Deep, calculated attacks from the Hokies landed in the back right of the Blue Devils’ court as Duke’s back row struggled to communicate, while in the front of the court, Duke’s blockers struggled to cut off access to Morrin’s cross-court shot from the right side. 

But the Blue Devil defense wasn’t without success. Senior libero Mackenzie Cole championed the back of the court for Duke, picking up 18 digs, including two in the first major rally of the match that allowed Stavrinides to finish off the attack at the net.

“We had to work hard to handle [Virginia Tech’s] tough serves, and I thought their pin hitters were doing a great job of moving the ball around on us. So when I think about their weaknesses, I was really thinking about what we need to do to stop them,” Nagel said.

Serving was actually a zero-sum game during Sunday’s matchup: both teams totaled five aces, eight service errors and five reception errors. Ultimately, Nagel noted that serving aggressively worked just as well for the Blue Devils as it did the Hokies.

The Blue Devil offense also counteracted the strong presence of Hughes and Morin on the Hokies’ side of the net. Duke hit .299 for the entire match, its second-highest efficiency of the season, compared to Virginia Tech’s .167.

Volleyball is a lesson in thinking ahead: after losing a rally, just focus on the next point; after a bad set, focus on the next set. And the Blue Devils did just exactly that in the third set, going on a 15-5 run and hitting .519, a remarkably impressive feat. The team had just one hitting error in the third set and totaled 15 kills. 

The third set was guided by junior Moorea Wood, who replaced freshman Rachel Richardson for the latter part of the match. Wood was productive for Duke off the bench, totaling five kills, four of which came in the third set.

“I said going into this match that it’s going to take all of us, and we had a lot of different personnel in there tonight,” Nagel said. “It’s an example of day-in and day-out. You never really know what to expect from an opponent necessarily or how we’re going to be able to balance that out with our own personnel.”

Before the Blue Devils take on Boston College Saturday, Nagel wants to work on playing better defense, both in terms of blocking and organizing the back row. But at the same time, what happens off the court may be more important than what happens in the gym.

“We’ve been going for a long time—since August, in fact,” Nagel said. “I want them to catch their breath a little bit here and recover from these two matches before we hit the road.”


Leah Boyd | Editor-in-Chief

Leah Boyd is a Pratt junior and editor-in-chief of The Chronicle's 117th volume.

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