Michael O’Grady | Staff Writer
The Duquesne Volleyball team’s season came to an end last weekend with two losses to Davidson, 3-2 and 3-1.
The Dukes were in position for the Atlantic-10 Tournament entering Friday night’s game, but the loss moved them down in the standings, and the following day’s loss eliminated them.
Duquesne had started A-10 play 5-5, but since Oct. 2,0 they have won just one of their last six games, giving them a 6-10 conference record headed into the final weekend of the regular season. However, a relatively top-heavy conference allowed them to hold sixth place and the final playoff spot.
The weekend went the worst-case-scenario for the Dukes, who lost both of their Davidson games at home while another 6-10 team, Saint Louis, won both of theirs. The disappointing finish resulted in a final overall record of 11-15, albeit a fair improvement over last year’s 8-22 mark.
Friday night’s game was closer than the finale was. The first two sets were especially clean with only nine combined errors in each. Most points came off kills and aces.
Davidson opted for a hitter-by-committee approach, with four players racking over 10 during the match, while Duquesne kept feeding hitters Carsyn Henschen and Morgan Gish, who was in her penultimate college game. Both would finish with 17 kills.
Most of that production came from setter Chloe Wilmot, who had 47 of 52 Duke assists and nabbed her sixth A-10 Rookie of the Week award despite an injury.
“Chloe’s playing hurt, she has a sprained wrist and it aggravated again halfway through the match,” said Duquesne Head Coach Steve Opperman. “But she toughed it out.”
The Wildcats won the first set and were holding firm in the second, but a sudden run of attack errors tipped the scoreboard and allowed Duquesne to tie.
A pivotal third set was 15-14 Davidson when Davidson broke away by Duquesne’s inability to kill past blockers Sola Omanije, Isabel Decker and Emma Slusser. Even so, the Dukes clawed their way back with a 5-point run before their momentum halted with another Omanije block, and Davidson took the set by 2 points.
Duquesne forced a fifth set off 10 Wildcat errors and 12 combined kills from Gish, Henschen and Avery Hobson, but faltered there after being tied 7-7, surrendering eight straight points en route to the loss.
“Could’ve been a quick night,” Opperman said, “but the nice thing about this group is that they battle. They laid it out on the floor and I thought they did a nice job getting it to five.”
The Dukes held onto hope that they could split hairs with Davidson and Saint Louis would lose, but it wasn’t meant to be. A 3-1 defeat on Duquesne’s Senior Day closed the book on both their season and the college careers of Gish and Camille Spencer.
Supported by seven blocks and their version of the committee attack Davidson had used the day before, Duquesne won the first set. Hobson would lead the team in kills on the day with 15, but three other Dukes had at least 10, and Wilmot topped off her banner rookie season with 38 assists, totaling her at 1,025.
None of that translated into another set win. Duquesne trailed the majority of the second and third sets before pushing Davidson to the brink in the fourth. Poised to force another fifth set with a 23-17 lead, everything went wrong for the Dukes from there and a 9-1 Wildcat run sealed the final. The blocking that had been in the first set was nowhere to be seen while Davidson hammered six kills during the streak.
Duquesne returns almost all of their roster next season when they’ll look to achieve their first winning season since 2016.