DURHAM, N.C. — The Notre Dame volleyball team dropped a heartbreaker here today at Duke, losing in five sets in the regular season finale. The Irish took the first set 25-19 before the Blue Devils answered with 25-22 and 25-23 victories in the second and third sets. Notre Dame took the fourth, 25-19, to force a decisive fifth set. In a hard-fought final frame, Duke prevailed 17-15 to earn the 3-2 win. The Irish close the 2018 regular season at 16-12 overall and 10-8 in ACC play.
Freshman Charley Niego paced the Irish offense with 19 kills while classmate Sydney Bent added 17 kills. Seniors Rebecca Nunge and Kristin Baer notched 14 and 13 kills respectively. Freshman Zoe Nunez racked up 55 assists in the five sets of play.
Senior Ryann DeJarld recorded 21 digs while junior Madison Cruzado added 16 digs for the Notre Dame backline.
HOW IT HAPPENED
After the Blue Devils opened the match with an 8-4 advantage, the Irish claimed six of the next eight points to even the score at 10-10. Notre Dame broke an 11-all deadlock with three straight points to go up 14-11. The two sides alternated points from there until back-to-back kills by Nunge put the Irish up 20-16 and forced a Duke timeout. After the stoppage, Notre Dame stayed in control and earned the 25-19 victory. Nunge paced the Irish with five kills in the frame and Notre Dame hit .289 as a team.
The momentum stayed with the Irish to start the second stanza as Notre Dame opened with a 7-1 lead. The Blue Devils responded with a 9-3 streak to make it a 10-all tie. A 3-1 spurt eventually put Duke up 18-15 before an ace by Nunez sandwiched between two kills by Niego made it an 18-18 tie. The Blue Devils recorded the next two points to move ahead, 20-18. A kill by Meg Morningstar would cut the Duke lead to 21-20, but the Blue Devils earned five of the next seven points to take the set 25-22.
The third frame was a back-and-forth affair that featured 12 ties and five lead changes. The two sides traded points to open the set before a 4-0 Irish run put Notre Dame up 11-8. The Blue Devils rebounded with a 4-2 spurt to even the score again at 13-13. The Irish regained the lead with two straight points but Duke responded again with a 5-1 streak to lead 18-16. Notre Dame eventually battled back to tie the set 22-22, but the Blue Devils earned three of the final four points to take the frame 25-23.
After the teams split the first 10 points of the stanza, the Irish went on a 4-1 run to take a 10-6 lead. Duke used pair of 3-0 runs to eventually tie the frame at 13-13 and force a Notre Dame timeout. The Irish countered a 2-0 Duke spurt with three straight points to eventually lead 18-17 and force the hosts to take a timeout. After the Blue Devils tied the set at 19-19, Notre Dame rattled off six straight points to win 25-19 and force a decisive fifth set. The Irish recorded a hitting percentage of .281 in the fourth set while limiting Duke to .167.
Duke jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the final set before the Irish used a 4-1 run to get within one. The Irish eventually knotted the score at 9-9, and the sides continued to trade points until two straight points for Duke gave the hosts a 17-15 win and the match.