DURHAM, N.C. – Three Blue Devils reached double-digit kills as the Duke volleyball team rallied from a 1-0 deficit to defeat No. 16 Illinois 3-1 (19-25, 27-25, 25-18, 25-21) Saturday evening at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Sophomore Elizabeth Campbell paced the Blue Devil offense with a match-high 23 kills, while junior Jeme Obeime and sophomore Emily Sklar added 16 and 11, respectively.
Campbell also added 11 digs, recording her first double-double of the season. Junior Maggie Deichmeister finished with a double-double as well, her fourth of the 2013 campaign, totaling 51 assists and a season-high 16 digs.
“It’s huge for us to protect Cameron, our home court,” said Obeime. “We knew it was going to be a fight and we were ready and stayed aggressive. We kept going to what was working. [Campbell] had a great game and we kept going to her knowing she could put the ball down when we needed it.”
Campbell and Deichmeister were part of a solid defensive effort by the Blue Devils. In total, five Duke (9-2) players reached double-digit digs, led by senior Ali McCurdy’s season-high 26. Freshman Sasha Karelov contributed a career-best 22 digs and sophomore Laura Williams chipped in with 15.
“I’m really proud of this group and how they have worked to get to this point,” said head coach Jolene Nagel. “They’ve really embraced coming into practice every day and just trying to get batter. I thought we served well tonight and our defense was pretty good. Our communication out there was really great. We lost that first set, and there were tough times in the next three sets, but they just worked really well together.”
Illinois (4-6) registered 5.0 blocks during the opening set, limiting Duke to a .035 hitting percentage en route to a 25-19 set win. Campbell had six kills in the frame, but Duke was unable to overcome 12 attack errors.
In a pivotal second set, both teams continued to battle back and forth before the Blue Devils found themselves down 22-19 late in the stanza. Duke rallied following a timeout, rattling off four straight points to take a 23-22 lead. Illinois and Duke traded points, reaching a 25-25 stalemate before consecutive kills from Deichmeister and Obeime clinched the 27-25 set victory for Duke.
In the third set, a 25-18 win for the Blue Devils, Campbell added five kills on eight errorless attack attempts and Duke totaled 6.0 blocks to 0.0 for the Illini.
Up 2-1 overall, Duke jumped out to a quick 8-4 start in the fourth frame, but Illinois battled back to tie the score at 16-all. The Blue Devils ended the match on a 9-5 run, including four kills by Campbell.
After totaling 5.0 blocks in the first set, Illinois had just 5.0 more the rest of the way, compared to 10.0 for the Blue Devils. Freshman Jordan Tucker had a career-high six blocks, while Campbell, Obeime and senior Chelsea Cook added three each. In addition, Duke limited its attack errors over the final three sets, committing just 14 during that span.
“After game two, we went into the locker room and refocused,” said McCurdy. We really wanted to get the control back on our side. This season, we’ve really focused on getting better every weekend and that showed tonight. It’s a great feeling to get a big win at home and then to start next the ACC schedule next Friday against Virginia.”
Tonight’s victory marked Duke’s first over a ranked opponent since the Blue Devils earned a five-set win over No. 17 Florida State on Nov. 13, 2011. With back-to-back wins over Indiana and Illinois, Duke has now defeated two Big Ten teams in the same season for the first time since the 1993 campaign, when the Blue Devils beat both Purdue and Michigan.
Duke opens ACC play this coming weekend as the Blue Devils play host to Virginia Friday, Sept. 27 and Virginia Tech Saturday, Sept. 28.