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Veterans Lead Miami to Hard-Fought Victory at Duke

DURHAM, N.C. – The University of Miami volleyball team earned one of its most challenging and yet sweetest victories this season, fighting off Duke 3-2 at the Cameron Indoor Stadium on Friday night.
 
It was going to take something extra special to win the neck-in-neck Atlantic Coast Conference contest, and that is exactly what Miami (10-3, 4-3 ACC) senior Brooke McDermott provided. The outside hitter doubled her previous career-best performance and led all players on the night with 20 kills, helping her team to a 21-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-18, 15-10 victory over the Blue Devils (11-7, 3-4 ACC). McDermott’s high-scoring display came on an impressive .515 hitting performance, which was match-high on its own.

“Brooke was huge,” Miami head coach Jose “Keno” Gandara said. “She was good throughout the whole match and kept us in it at times. She contributed in all areas of the game. Not only as a hitter, but also serving and passing. In addition, her block got better as the match went on.”
 
Three more Hurricanes finished with double figures offensively in senior outside hitter Olga Strantzali (18 kills), junior outside hitter Kolby Bird (13) and senior middle blocker Sakile Simmons (10). Cadie Bates’ 18 kills led Duke. The Blue Devils had four in double digits as well, including Payton Schwantz (15), Samantha Amos (13) and Anna Kropf (11).

Strantzali and redshirt junior setter Haley Templeton, who had career- and match-high 61 assists, finished with double-doubles after recording 16 digs and 13 digs, respectively. The offensive duo also contributed four of the Canes’ six service aces in the contest – three by Strantzali and one by Templeton.

“I thought Haley was really good,” Gandara said. “Her poise and leadership were outstanding. She did a great job running the offense, but she also had one of her best defensive matches. She served, blocked and defended well.”

Miami’s senior libero Sylvia Hernandez outdid everyone defensively by posting 19 digs, while sophomore defensive specialist Sara Duque tied her career-best – set at Notre Dame two weeks ago – of 17 digs. Bates and Nicole Bartholomew each had a team-high 18 digs for Duke.

Five players contributed at least two blocks for Miami’s win. They were led by Simmons, who accounted for season-high six blocks. Miami’s 10 blocks against the Blue Devils made for the Canes’ best ACC performance this season.

Miami went on a 5-0 early in the opening set and led by as many as four at 7-3. The Canes had a two-point lead going into mid-set, 16-14, when a lengthy scoring review halted play for over five minutes and reset the momentum in the match. The Blue Devils adjusted better to the circumstances and won eight of the next 11 points to force the Canes into a timeout – 22-19. Two straight points got the Canes within one, but Duke responded with three straight points of its own to take the lead in the match, 25-21.

The Canes were on the happy end of a wild finish to set two, winning it 25-23. In a matter of few minutes, Miami went from leading 19-12 to trailing 23-22 and with no timeouts left, but seniors Strantzali and McDermott made big plays to contribute to their team’s final 3-0 run in the set. McDermott hit .667 through two sets.

Just like its predecessor, the third set featured four lead changes, the final one coming on a kill by Kropf, which gave Duke a 23-22 lead. The Blue Devils regained the lead in the match by winning four of the last five points after a kill by Strantzali had given the Hurricanes a 22-21 lead.

Trailing only for a point at 2-1, the Hurricanes paced the tempo for the majority of the fourth set. Miami hit .349 and limited Duke to a .149 attack efficiency to go into the fifth set off of a resonating 25-18 score. After a kill from Amos brought the Blue Devils within two at 20-18, the Canes ended the set on a 5-0 run, finished off with a kill by the hero on the night, McDermott.

Back-to-back blocks from Simmons – aided by Strantzali and McDermott, respectively – highlighted the fifth set for Miami, as they gave the Hurricanes the victory, 15-10. The Canes were in trouble shortly after the court exchange as an ace by Haley Seyfarth brought Duke within one at 9-8, but Miami put together two 3-0 runs to win six of the final eight points of the contest. The Hurricanes outblocked Duke 4-1 in the decisive set.

“We had to battle for this one tonight,” Gandara said. “Every match is a battle in the ACC. The players know that Wake Forest is a good team and we will need to be ready to battle again on Sunday.”

First serve against the Demon Deacons will be at 1 p.m.
 
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