Blue Devils Upset No. 16 Illini, 3-1
Sept. 21, 2013
Durham, N.C. – The No. 16 Fighting Illini did not finish nonconference play the way they wanted to, dropping their fourth-straight match with a 3-1 loss at Duke Univeristy (25-19, 25-27, 18-25, 21-25). The first team on the Illini’s schedule not appear in the AVCA poll, the Blue Devils improve to 9-2 on the year with their first victory over a ranked opponent. After the recent slide, Illinois will enter Big Ten play with a 4-6 record.
Junior outside hitter Morganne Criswell made her first start of the year and proved she earned her spot, tabbing her first career double-double with a team-high 14 kills and 11 digs. Liz McMahon had a strong second half, tying Criswell with 14 kills and adding five digs and four blocks. Freshman middle blocker Katie Stadick also earned her way into the starting lineup, stuffing eight of the team’s 10 blocks to go along with five kills.
Sophomore Jocelynn Birks registered at season-high 17 digs from the back row, but was limited to just eight kills, a rare single-digit night for the power-hitting outside who added four blocks. Alexis Viliunas registered a double-double with 43 assists and 15 digs, and Jennifer Beltran led the strong back line with 23 digs.
Across the court, senior libero Ali McCurdy, who like Beltran is among the active NCAA digs leaders and is on her way to becoming Duke’s career record-holder, led the match with an impressive 26 digs, while freshman defensive specialist Sasha Karelov was right behind her with 22. Sophomore Elizabeth Campbell came up with several key kills in the match, leading both teams with 23 kills to go along with 11 digs and three blocks, while Jeme Obeime put up 16 kills. Jordan Tucker was solid at the net, stuffing seven of the Blue Devils’ 11 blocks.
Illinois narrowly out-hit Duke in the match .170 to .169, but trailed in both kills (60-50) and digs (97-89).
The first set was a back-and-forth battle with neither team maintaining a solid lead until Illinois pushed ahead 15-13 on a pair of blocks by Stadick. The Illini held onto the advantage over the next seven points, until kills by Obeime and Campbell tied the score at 18. However, an error by Campbell put Illinois back on top, and the Orange and Blue would go on to win six of the next seven points to take the set by a score of 25-19.
The second set was a fierce fight right down to the end. Much like the first set, Illinois took a solid lead towards the end, up 22-19 off kills by Criswell and McMahon, but Duke charged back with a 4-0 run to regain the lead 23-22 on a kill by Campbell. Another Criswell kill and a Stadick-McMahon block gave Illinois the first shot at set point, but another Campbell kill knotted it at 24. Sklar gave Duke its first set point, but a Campbell error tied it once again. Deichmeister slammed an overpass to reach another Duke set point and the Blue Devils finished it off on a rip by Obeime, taking the set 27-25 and tying the match at one.
Illinois had the upper hand early in the third set, taking a 14-11 lead, but Duke came back to tie the score at 15, then forged ahead 20-16 on points scored by four different players. Stadick and Criswell each had one more kill in the set, but the Blue Devils ran away with the score, taking the third set, 25-18, to claim a 2-1 lead in the match.
Duke took an early lead in the fourth set, up 4-1 with the help of a McCurdy ace, and maintained control of the score throughout the frame. After trailing 14-10, the Illini made solid run started by a kill by Anna Dorn to tie the score at 16, but a kill by Obeime returned the lead to Duke. Viliunas and Maddie Mayers blocked Obeime to tie the score again, but a Campbell kill put the Blue Devils back on top where they stayed for the remainder of the match, winning the set, 25-21, on the 23rd kill by Campbell to complete a 3-1 upset of the Illini.
Illinois opens Big Ten play next Friday night with a visit by the Iowa Hawkeyes at 7 p.m. on Sept. 27. The match will be held at the State Farm Center which seats over 16,000 as a preview of the 2013 NCAA Regionals which will be held there on Dec. 13-14.