Dec. 7, 2013
DURHAM, N.C. - On Friday it was the offense that clicked for American. Defense took center stage in another historic victory on Saturday.
A day after capturing the first NCAA Volleyball Tournament victory in program and Patriot League history, American (34-2) advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 3-0 victory over No. 16 seed and 14th-ranked Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium by set scores of 25-23, 26-24 and 25-22.
The win sets up a showdown next Friday in Lincoln, Neb., between the Eagles and No. 1 seed and defending national champion Texas.
“It’s incredible," American's Kelly McCaddin said on advancing to next week's match with the Longhorns. "We made the tournament my freshman year too and had an early exit [in 2011]. We were a young team and we knew then that we were going to have something special over the years and this is that year.”
Four Eagles reached double digits in digs, led by Juliana Crum's 21. Monika Smidova posted her second straight double-double in the NCAA postseason with 35 assists and 15 digs, while Megan Rosburg (14) and Allison Cappellino (11) hit the double-figure plateau. Kylann Scheidt posted nine.
McCaddin had another stellar offensive effort as well. After hitting .533 in Friday's straight-sets sweep over Georgia, the junior middle blocker had 10 kills on 21 tries with only one error (.429).
“My hitting wouldn’t be possible without them," McCaddin said of her teammates. "It’s nice to have Monika [Smidova] set me repeatedly in the same rally. It makes me feel more confident as a hitter."
Several moments could be looked upon as turning points for American, but perhaps none stick out larger than its third-set run that erased any chance of the Blue Devils (28-5) orchestrating a comeback. After the Eagles captured the first two sets, Duke roared out to a 9-2 lead in the third frame. Krystina Lindovska's kill brought American within 9-3, and ignited what turned eventually into a 15-1 run. With Megan Rosburg serving, the Eagles picked up point after point, with a combination of kills from McCaddin and Cappellino plus a pair of Duke attack errors making it a 9-8 set before the Blue Devils called timeout.
American tallied three more points to take an 11-9 lead before a service error snapped the run of nine straight. But the Eagles rattled off six more points. Crum started it off with a kill to give American the serve again, and it scored five more times on Schiedt's service.
American extended its lead to 21-13 late in the frame before the Blue Devils put together one final gasp. Duke scored five of the next six to come within 22-18, and an attack error cut the Eagle lead to 23-22. But Lindovska converted two straight kills on back-to-back Smidova assists to send American to the Sweet 16.
Crum posted 11 kills with her 21 digs for a double-double, while Lindovska led all players with 13 strikes.
The Eagles hit .204 to Duke's .110. Thanks to American's digging game, the Blue Devils' hitting percentage declined in each set, beginning at .163 in the first, dipping to .109 in the second and bottoming at .062 in the third.
“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," Smidova said. "I think that we out-digged them and we started playing a better receive game by the end of the third game.”