Dukes top Xavier for first time in 10 years

Claire Murray | The Duquesne Duke Sophomore setter Mary Henry attempts to keep the ball in play in the Duquesne women’s volleyball team’s 3-2 win over Xavier.
Claire Murray | The Duquesne Duke
Sophomore setter Mary Henry attempts to keep the ball in play in the Duquesne women’s volleyball team’s 3-2 win over Xavier.

Eric Purnell | for The Duquesne Duke

 It took five sets and almost three hours, but for the first time in ten years the Duquesne women’s volleyball team defeated Xavier 3-2 Saturday morning.

 After opening up their season last weekend at the Hyatt Place International and losing their first two games (to IPFW and Connecticut), the Dukes were able to bounce back and win their next two matches against Southern Illinois and Central Michigan.

 The Central Michigan game in particular helped the Dukes gain momentum that they looked to build off of, according to head coach Steve Opperman.

 ”I think we got some momentum against a really nice central Michigan team,” he said. “We came out this morning knowing we could play good solid volleyball, and I think that translated out on the floor today.”

 That momentum was evident, as the Dukes came out strong, winning the first two sets 26-24 and 25-21, respectively. The third set played out entirely differently though, as the Xavier team responded big and ended up winning by a commanding score of 25-18.

 The fourth set began, and again Xavier jumped out to an early lead and was able to hold on for a 25-20 win and tie the match up. The game took a complete 180 after the first two sets as Xavier seemed to be in the driver’s seat heading into the fifth and final set. But the Dukes had other plans.

 Heading into the fifth round, Opperman said the team remained focused, claiming it was a huge factor in the game’s eventual outcome.

 ”We jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and then we lost the next two sets, but our kids just stay[ed] focused and aggressive and they trusted each other and I think that was one thing we didn’t do the previous weekend,” Opperman said.

 Duquesne certainly did come out aggressive in the fifth, jumping out to an impressive 5-1 lead to start the set. Xavier fought back again, making it a close match to the end, but the Dukes were able to hold off the comeback and won the final set 15-12.

 Although a 3-0 win would have been nice for the team, Opperman acknowledged the positives of winning in five.

 ”The biggest thing as a coach is [after losing the third and fourth sets] that you think your team is going to fold, that we just lost these last two, Xavier has all the momentum, but we came out right away we were up 5-1 right away in the fifth set and it was just like the girls came out on the floor and were just confident.” Opperman said.

 Junior middle hitter Arielle Love, who was vital to the Dukes in their win by tying two Xavier players with 16 kills for the most in the match, echoed her coach’s sentiments.

 ”It [felt] great to fight, to be up 2-0 and then lose two but to come back in the fifth and win,” Love said.

 Love added in that “the (momentum) is something [they] want to carry into conference [play]” after the big win over Xavier.

 With just a few weeks left before A-10 conference play begins, Love is happy with where the team stands.

 ”[We’re] feeling good, we have a lot of fight, and [I] think sometimes we get content with what we’re doing, and I feel like this year everyone is kind of ready to go for the big win,” Love said.

 The Dukes take on William and Mary next this Friday in the Hokie Classic in Blacksburg, Va.