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Published 11/10/2012
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First-Place VB Overcomes Match Points at Duke

DURHAM, N.C. - Down 14-12 in the fifth and deciding set, the University of Miami volleyball team fought back to win the next four exchanges, fending off two match points, to defeat Duke, 3-2, on Saturday inside Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Canes have now swept the season series against the Blue Devils the last two seasons.

UM won by the scores of 25-12, 25-21, 23-25, 19-25 and 16-14 to remain in a tie for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference standings with Florida State, moving to 23-4 on the season and 15-2 in the league. There are two remaining matches before the showdown at Florida State on Nov. 23.

"I thought we were very sharp to start the match, which was one of our focuses tonight," head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. "Duke showed fight to come back and we struggled for a couple sets. I was proud of how our team stayed composed and consistent in the fifth set, and we certainly came up with some clutch plays. The team displayed great resiliency."

Five Hurricanes recorded double-digit kills, led by 19 from junior outside hitter Taylor Hollins. She also had a career-high 20 digs to pick up her 16th double-double of the season. Sophomore outside hitter Savanah Leaf (26 digs, 13 kills) and junior right side Alex Johnson (13 kills, 10 digs) put up double-doubles as well. Johnson tied her career high with five service aces for Miami.

Junior libero Ryan Shaffer notched 26 digs in the back row to help hold DU to a .172 hitting percentage, while senior setter Nrithya Sundararaman registered 50 assists. Coming into the weekend leading the ACC with an average of 10.60 assists per set, Sundararaman has posted at least 50 assists in five matches this season.

Up front, the middle blocker combination of sophomores Emani Sims and Alexis Mourning had eight and seven total blocks at the net, respectively. UM recorded 16.0 total team blocks on the night. The duo also combined for 25 kills, as the Canes slammed down 12 more than the Blue Devils (70-58) in the match.

Miami started off strong with a convincing first-set win, 25-12. It was the second-least points allowed in a frame this season. Leaf recorded five kills and nine digs herself, with defense holding Duke to a .000 hitting percentage.

The momentum carried on to the second as UM went up 2-0 in the match. The set was tied at 20 before the Canes won five of the next six points behind a strong serving effort from Mourning. Sundararaman put down her only kill of the match to send it into intermission.

Duke came back a different team following the break, going up 17-10 in the third. However, Miami rallied to tie the set at 19 to get within striking distance of a sweep. From there, the teams split the next six points to make it 23-23, but Duke took the next two exchanges to continue the match.

The hosts also held an early lead in the fourth set, but did not allow the Hurricanes to recover this time. A four-point Duke run sent the contest into a fifth and deciding set.

The Canes, who entered a fifth set for the fourth time this season, built an early 7-5 lead, aided by four blocks. The advantage did not grow from there and the Blue Devils went on a 6-2 run to go up 14-12, having two match points inside their home arena. Staring down a defeat, Hollins then laid down a kill and Johnson placed an ace to even the set at 14. Hollins followed with two more kills off sets from Sundararaman to give Miami its eighth road win of the season.

It was the first time this season that Miami overcame match point to win and the team is now 4-0 in five-setters on the year.

Duke (14-15, 5-12) was led by 25 kills from Elizabeth Campbell.

After playing the last two weekends in the state of North Carolina, the Canes will return to the Knight Sports Complex on Friday to take on Boston College at 7 p.m. UM has won its last 16 at home dating back to last season.

Single-game tickets to home volleyball matches are available for as low as $3. Call 1-800-GO-CANES to order your tickets today. For all the latest information on Miami Hurricanes volleyball, follow the official Twitter feed, @CanesVB, or "Like Us" on Facebook at