Senior Jeni Houser totaled nine kills, five digs and a match-high eight blocks against No. 25 Duke Sunday.

No. 25 Duke Holds Off Irish Volleyball, 3-1

Oct. 5, 2014

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#25 Duke 3, Notre Dame 1Get Acrobat Reader

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Led by libero Sasha Karelov’s 23 digs and preseason all-ACC performer Emily Sklar’s 18 kills, No. 25 Duke came into Purcell Pavilion and knocked off Notre Dame, 3-1 (25-18, 25-21, 20-25, 25-23), Sunday afternoon in front of 1,386 fans.

The Blue Devils (12-3, 4-0 ACC) had four players reach double figures in kills, as the visitors pounded home 65 kills while hitting .260 for the match. The Irish, who had a spectacular day at the net on defense (11 blocks), couldn’t hang on the offense end as they tallied 49 kills and hit just .228.

Duke’s back-row defense was solid all day long, as Karelov led the way for a Blue Devils squad that totaled 61 digs. Meanwhile, setter Kelsey Williams had a match-high 52 assists to go along with seven digs, five kills (.500 A%) and a service ace. Sklar finished with six digs and two blocks in addition to the match-high 18 kills. Also reaching double figures in kills were Jeme Obeime (15), Jordan Tucker (12) and Alyse Whitaker (11). Tucker hit .435 and had a team-high five blocks.

For Notre Dame, graduate student Nicole Smith led the Irish with 11 kills, while sophomore Katie Higgins totaled eight kills (.333 A%) and a career-high seven blocks. Senior Jeni Houser added nine kills, five digs and a match-high eight blocks. Junior Hanna Muzzonigro recorded her third career double-double with 40 assists and 12 digs.

The match was close throughout and featured 22 ties and eight lead changes.

In the first frame, Duke hit .357 and totaled 4.5 of its 7.5 blocks for the match in the opening set. A close set for the first half, the Blue Devils took a 15-14 lead and turned it into a 19 15 advantage behind two kills and one block from Tucker. Later in the set, Notre Dame trimmed the margin to two at 19-17, but Duke scored four points in a row to put the set out of reach at 23-17. Later, a kill from Obeime gave Duke a 1-0 lead.

Both offenses put on a show in set two, as Duke hit .381 and Notre Dame hit .378. Similar to the first set, the two teams were close midway through at 14 all, but the Blue Devils went on a mini 6-1 run to take a 20-15 lead. The teams went back-and-forth from there, but the Irish couldn’t cut into the lead. Sklar ended the set with a kill off a Williams’ assist.

Notre Dame worked its way back into the match after the break with a hard-fought 25-20 victory. Neither offense could get much going as the Irish had just six kills, but the home team recorded five blocks and had three service aces to pull away. Higgins and Houser combined for several blocks during the set to keep Duke off-balance. The Blue Devils had eight more kills than the Irish, but totaled nine more attack errors. The two teams were tied at six early, but three straight attack errors (two Irish blocks) gave Notre Dame a 10-6 advantage. The Irish upped their lead to six at 17-11, and eventually took an eight point lead at 21-13 and 22-14. Later in the set, a kill and service ace from Houser cut Duke’s lead to 2-1.
In the closest set of the match, Duke led virtually throughout, as the frame featured just two ties and one early lead change. However, the Irish made the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference champions sweat, as Notre Dame was within a point or two for almost the entire set. The Irish trimmed the lead to two at 23-21 on a kill from senior Meg Vonderhaar. However, a kill from Tucker gave Duke match point. Not ones to give up, Notre Dame moved to within one (24-23) and forced a Blue Devil timeout on a kill from Smith and a Duke attack error. However, Sklar made up for her previous mistake with a kill to give Duke the 3-1 win, 25-23.

The Irish (4-11, 1-3 ACC) hit the road next weekend for ACC matches with Pittsburgh (7 p.m. Friday) and Louisville (2 p.m. Sunday).

–Russell Dorn, Assistant Media Relations Director