Wrapping up Alumni Weekend, NC State’s volleyball team won 3-2 against Duke at Reynolds Coliseum on Sunday night.
The Wolfpack (12-12, 6-8 ACC) started off strong against the Blue Devils (14-9, 8-6 ACC) and won the first set 25-23. The Blue Devils turned the tables on the Pack in the second set winning 25-17. The Pack redeemed itself in the third set winning 25-21, then lost the fourth set 25-20. In the fifth and final set, the Pack won 15-13.
“It was a really interesting defensive battle,” head coach Linda Hampton-Keith said. “There’s a lot of nontraditional plays going on. I think that speaks to both teams; their relentlessness and their willingness. There’s what happens on paper and then what’s really happening. We out-dug them but they out-blocked us. They out-hit us even in terms of percentage wise even though we got more kills than they did. It was a willpower match in terms of timing. The timing of when the points came were crucial.”
The Wolfpack dominated the Blue Devils in the first half of the first set leading 11-3. The easy lead wasn’t to last as the Blue Devils closed the gap 15-10.
Sophomore outside hitter Melissa Evans had two consecutive kills, and six total, to lead the Pack to 20-14. It continued to hold the lead and reached match point at 24-18 before the Blue Devils closed the gap to 24-23. The Pack narrowly won the first set without going into overtime 25-23.
Despite the close win, the Pack never gave up the lead in the first set and never allowed the Blue Devils to tie up the score.
“I think we settled,” senior setter Kylie Pickrell said. “There’s a difference between being calm and relaxed. And I think we just relaxed a little too much at the end knowing that we were going to win the set and then pretty soon we realized it was a lot closer than we expected it to be.”
Duke turned the tables on the Wolfpack in the second set, taking an early 9-4 lead, but the Pack managed to break the Blue Devil’s run and started to climb back to 11-9.
NC State called a timeout to try and regroup as Duke continued to increase its lead 20-13. The Pack did a good job of fighting back but ultimately fell 25-17.
The Wolfpack worked hard to get a good lead on the Blue Devils in the third set at 5-1 and a kill from senior middle blocker Teni Sopitan further increased the lead 7-3.
Duke started to encroach on the Pack’s lead but two consecutive kills from Sopitan followed by one from graduate middle blocker Kiera Moore, kept the Blue Devils at bay at 10-7.
The Wolfpack took the third set 25-21 for a 2-1 set advantage on the Blue Devils.
The Wolfpack had 93 digs, the second most digs for the team this season. Senior libero Makenzie Kuchmaner had 26 of the 93 digs followed by Pickrell with 17 digs along with her 50 assists.
The fourth set was close throughout as both teams were relentless and refused to give way, having four lead changes and eight tied scores.
The Blue Devils kept some distance towards the end of the match in points. Duke’s leading scorer, graduate Andie Shelton, got a kill to put Duke ahead 20-16. Shelton had 16 kills by the end of the match.
The Wolfpack fought but Duke pulled through to win the set 25-20, but the fifth set was in the Pack’s favor as it kept the lead 10-9.
The Wolfpack managed to reach set point at 14-10 but the Blue Devil’s closed the gap to 14-13. After a Pack timeout, Sopitan got the last kill to the back-left corner of the court to win the fifth set 15-13. Sopitan tied with her season high with 21 kills.
The Wolfpack will be heading out for its last away match against Notre Dame on Friday at 8 p.m.