No. 14 Duke Outlasts Charleston, 3-1, In NCAA First Round
DURHAM, N.C. – College of Charleston rallied from two slow sets to nearly force a fifth game against No. 14 Duke, eventually falling 3-1 (25-14, 25-8, 23-25, 25-19) in the first round of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Friday night.
CofC (25-6) did well to rally from two of the statistically worst sets of the season, winning the third set and leading late in the fourth frame. ACC Champion Duke (28-4) played strong throughout the match, hitting .325 with three players scoring in double figures. The Blue Devils tallied 14 blocks and outdug the Cougars, 65-48.
Duke’s Jeme Obeime led all players with 19 kills and a .432 hitting percentage. Elizabeth Campbell scored 15 kills and had seven blocks, while Jordan Tucker made eight blocks. Emily Sklar made 10 kills and Maggie Deichmeister had 41 assists and 15 digs. Libero Ali McCurdy led all players with 23 digs.
Sophomore Melissa Morello led Charleston with 10 kills and 10 digs, her sixth-straight double-digit kill performance. Cara Howley tallied 10 kills and hit .273, while Sloane White had nine kills. Senior Taeler Davis recorded 26 assists, and Andi Zbojniewicz led Charleston with 15 digs. Darcy Dorton had just six kills in the match, making 12 hitting errors and five reception errors.
The Blue Devils set the tone in the first set by shutting down Charleston’s outside attack and building a 9-3 lead. The Cougars tried to claw back with a few mini-runs but the Duke net defenders made things difficult. Duke led 19-8 after a block from Cook and Campbell, and eventually went on to win 25-14. Duke hit .400 in the first set, holding Charleston to -.031. Howley and White each had two kills from the right side, while Obeime had five kills for Duke.
Duke opened the second set with a 9-0 run and Charleston struggled to find consecutive strong plays in the set. DU hit .556 in the second frame with five kills from Sklar and four blocks from Campbell. Charleston was held to single digits in a set for the first time all season as Duke won 25-8.
College of Charleston came alive in the third set, hitting .371 as a team and scoring points off of aggressive plays. CofC capped a 3-0 run with an ace from White to lead 15-12 at the media timeout. The teams traded points until Duke finally came back to tie the set at 22. Morello tallied a kill and an ace to give Charleston set point and Howley put the game away off a slide, 25-23.
With the season on the line, Charleston played passionate and heart-felt volleyball in the fourth set, carrying over the momentum from the third-set win. CofC continued to rely on the hitting of Morello and Howley, while Davis ran CofC’s offense. CofC answered multiple Duke runs and eventually led 19-17 in the fourth set before Duke called timeout. The Blue Devils harnessed the Cameron momentum on successive points, building a tidal wave 8-0 run that ended the match on an ace, 25-19.
College of Charleston finishes the season at 25-6, the sixth 25-win season in head coach Jason Kepner’s seven years at the helm. Volleyball won College of Charleston’s first championship in the Colonial Athletic Association, the program’s 13th-straight conference title dating back to 2001.
Seniors Darcy Dorton, Taeler Davis, Kerstin Koehler and Emily Neideffer end their careers in the maroon and gold with impressive resumes. The group won conference championships every year at CofC, made it to three NCAA Tournaments in five years and advanced to the NCAA second round in 2012.
Dorton finishes third all-time in CofC history in kills per set (3.92), while Koehler will be sixth in career hitting percentage (.302). Davis finishes seventh all-time with 2,551 assists.
College of Charleston head coach Jason Kepner
“Duke played great in those first two games and we really didn’t put any pressure on them. They played really free and relaxed and we were really dwelling too much on the points before and how bad we were playing and how things just weren’t going right. I thought after the break we came out with a different mindset of looking forward and trying to score one point at a time. I thought we did a great job coming out of the locker room and to the end. I’m proud of the last two games, but the first two games were a little disappointing. Duke’s a great team and we’re pretty fortunate to put ourselves in a position to try to get to five [games].”
On the team’s season:
“We’ve been really consistent all season long. I think that’s the biggest surprise for me in those first two games. That’s a team I haven’t seen in a very long time. We played in a style that was unconfident, which is not this group. This group has been very confident and very consistent this whole season. I’ve been proud of how they played and how they maintained a high level of play. It was good to show it at the last two games, at least.”
On the team’s performance in the first round of the NCAA Tournament:“Kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I think the last two games were a true representation of what we have. It showed our ability and capability of playing at that level. We just didn’t maintain it, whereas Duke was able to maintain it for four games. We were a little more sporadic with that level of play.”