DURHAM, N.C. - Led by 14 kills from freshman Emily Sklar, the Duke volleyball team opened the 2012 campaign with a 3-0 (26-24, 25-18, 25-23) victory over William & Mary Friday night in front of nearly 3,000 spectators in Cameron Indoor Stadium.
"It's great to get this one under our belts because everyone was really excited, and a little anxious, to get out and play," said head coach Jolene Nagel. "I thought we got better as the match went on, which has something to do with us relaxing and taking care of the ball."
Sklar, in her first career match, paced the Blue Devil offense with 14 kills on 30 attacks, playing in all three sets. The San Jose, Calif., native continued to improve as the match continued, posting a team-high eight kills in the third and final set. Sklar was not the only rookie to turn in a solid performance in her collegiate debut as outside hitter Elizabeth Campbell added seven kills on 17 attacks (.353) and setter Christina Vucich contributed 15 assists and 11 digs.
"[Tonight] was pretty exciting," said Sklar. "The biggest thing for me was all the fans. I've never seen anything like it."
Sophomore Jeme Obeime also reached double-digit kills with 10 on the night, while 2011 honorable mention AVCA All-American Christiana Gray converted five kills on seven attacks for a team-best .571 hitting percentage.
"I think it's great to get out there and compete against someone who isn't Duke volleyball," said Gray. "It was great. We've got a few things to work on, but for our first game it was a great start and we're looking to build on that tomorrow morning."
The Blue Devils got off to a slow start in the first set, trailing by as many as three. Down 18-15, Duke made its move, outscoring William & Mary 11-6 to close out the set. Campbell and Obeime added two kills each over the run, helping Duke secure the 1-0 lead.
The second set belonged to the Blue Devils as Duke put the set out of reach with a 10-5 spurt after William and Mary tied the score at 9-9. Duke hit .342 for the set, while limiting the Tribe to a .053 hitting percentage.
A scrappy William & Mary squad continued to hang around in the third set, but Duke closed out the sweep with an ace from freshman Laura Williams and a kill by Obeime.
Duke's defense held William and Mary to a .171 hitting percentage for the match. Libero Ali McCurdy registered a game-high 23 digs as she and defensive specialist Nailah Waterfield combined for 34 of Duke's 60 digs. Middle blocker Chelsea Cook also added five blocks to go along with five kills.
"We've got some great leadership in our upperclassmen and they're doing a great job of guiding our younger players," added Nagel. "This was a great test for us tonight, but we're going to be tested even more tomorrow and tomorrow night. It's going to be a great weekend for us to learn a lot about our team."
Duke returns to action Saturday morning in its second match of the annual Duke Invitational. The Blue Devils face Fairfield at 10 a.m., before taking on UW-Milwaukee in the six and final match of the tournament.
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