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AU Volleyball upsets No.16 Duke to advance to Sweet 16

AU Volleyball upsets No.16 Duke to advance to Sweet 16

AU volleyball players celebrate their win against Colgate University on Nov. 24 to win the Patriot League Championship.

With an upset and sweep of the No. 16-seeded Duke University, the AU volleyball team will advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.

AU’s win at Durham, N.C. on Dec. 7 marks the first time AU has ever qualified for the Sweet 16.

AU’s blistering defense combined with dominant performances from the team allowed the Eagles to secure their spot in the third round of the tournament.

AU (34-2, 16-1, PL) was active on the defensive end throughout the match.

“Our main focus was to play better defense tonight and we actually out-blocked them in the first and second game but they came back,” junior setter Monika Smidova said in at a post game press conference. “I think one of the reasons why that happened was I started being very predictable so I was trying to mix it up more in the third game. I think that we out-digged them and we started playing a better receive game by the end of the third game.”

Four AU players notched double-digit digs for the Eagles with senior outside hitter Juliana Crum leading the Eagles with 24 digs.

The Eagles’ powerful blocking added to the their defensive presence, notching 20 block assists in the match with junior middle blocker Kelly McCaddin leading all players with eight blocks.

AU’s defense held Duke (28-4, 18-2, ACC) to a 0.111 average hitting percentage in the match.

The Eagles also trumped the Blue Devils on the offensive end. AU’s early offense put the Eagles up 9-4 in the first set. The game went back and forth until Duke pulled within one point at 13-12. The Eagles initially shook the Blue Devils off, but Duke again fought to tie the game at 23 points. The Eagles responded with consecutive kills to secure a 25-23 win the set.

The second game was more competitive than the first. AU and Duke went back and forth throughout the game, tying the set on eight separate occasions as neither team led by more than four points. When Duke reached set point and led 24-23, AU fought back with three straight points to take the second set 26-24.

Unlike the previous two sets, the Eagles came out sluggishly and quickly dug themselves into a 9-2 hole in the third set. Picking up its energy, AU came back with a 9-0 run to take an 11-9 lead. The Blue Devils earned a point and pushed the score to 11-10, but the Eagles followed with 6-0 run that put them up 17-10. In spite of the deficit, Duke persisted and pushed the score to 23-22. The Eagles regained control of the game, recorded two straight points, and secured their sweep on a 25-23 third set.

Three AU players posted double-digit kills in the match. Junior outside hitter Kristyna Lindovska leading with a game-high 13 kills. Crum’s 11 kills gave her a double-double in the match.

AU will face off against the No. 1-seeded University of Texas at Austin in Lincoln, Neb. on Dec. 13.

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