Duke women’s volleyball has found itself in crunch time during its two most recent matches. Pulling ahead of Notre Dame in a fifth set and winning a set against the No. 2 team in the country required someone to step up and put the Blue Devils back on the right course offensively.
And that person is Ade Owokoniran.
The senior middle blocker and outside hitter led the Blue Devils with 23 kills Friday against the Fighting Irish, her most since Oct. 18, 2019 against Clemson. With only three errors throughout the match on 52 attempts, Owokoniran’s .385 hitting percentage was her fourth-highest of the season. She came out of the game with 1,021 career kills and is now the 27th Blue Devil to reach the 1,000-kill threshold.
And in case that wasn’t enough, Owokoniran set two other personal season highs against the Fighting Irish, racking up 26.5 points and five total blocks throughout the match.
She proved to be someone Duke can rely on when the stakes are high, earning five kills in the fifth set of Friday’s match after the Blue Devils struggled offensively in the second and third sets. She also helped the Blue Devils on Sunday become just the third unranked team this year to beat No. 2 Louisville in a set by forcing a set point in the third set with her seventh kill. The game went to a fourth set after an attack error by Louisville. Owokoniran totaled nine kills against the Cardinals, second to the 10 earned by Lizzie Fleming.
Her seventh kill of the Oct. 24 match against N.C. State followed by a block by Fleming and Rachel Richardson gave the Blue Devils a 22-20 lead in a third set. Despite the Wolfpack’s 5-0 run to win the match, it was momentum the Blue Devils needed and could have better capitalized on.
It seems Duke volleyball knows that Owokoniran is the key to offensive success. The Raleigh native leads the team with 638 attack attempts this season; second is Gracie Johnson at 593, followed by Lizzie Fleming at 391.
She has gotten the most kills in 16 of the 23 matches Duke has played this season, earning the second most kills in another three matches. (And in the four matches where she didn’t top the list, she didn’t play every set.) The 6-foot-3 senior also leads the team with her 232 kills this season, 3.18 kills per set and 3.51 points per set. Dominating the team in kills throughout her first three years at Duke is what helped propel her to the 1,000-kill benchmark Friday.
If there’s one area where Owokoniran can work to improve this season, it’s on more consistently limiting attacking errors and boosting her efficiency. The nine kills against Louisville on 40 attempts come with eight errors, leaving Owokoniran with a .025 hitting percentage from the match. Fourteen kills against Florida State were accompanied by seven errors, leaving her with a .159 hitting efficiency during the match. Her .226 overall hitting percentage for the season is decent, but if she can work on bringing it up towards .300—often considered an excellent benchmark in volleyball—she’ll be unstoppable.
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Leah Boyd is a Pratt senior and a social chair of The Chronicle's 118th volume. She was previously editor-in-chief for Volume 117.