Volleyball splits weekend series in NYC

Nick Fernbaugh | Staff Photographer | Duquesne outside hitter Avery Hobson prepares a serve during a match against Canisius University earlier this season. The freshman recorded a career-high four aces during Friday's loss at Fordham. She also leads the team in kills with 135 this fall.

Michael O’Grady | Staff Writer

In a two-game series last weekend, Duquesne volleyball opened their Atlantic-10 Conference schedule with a split against Fordham in the Bronx.

The Dukes lost Friday night in a five-set heartbreaker before sweeping the Rams the next afternoon. The bounce-back win wasn’t the only victory for Duquesne on the road trip, as freshman setter Chloe Wilmot won her second Atlantic-10 Conference Rookie of the Week award this season after putting up 92 assists and seven blocks over the two games.

Offense wasn’t a problem for Duquesne on Friday night, as outside hitters Carsyn Henschen, Avery Hobson and Morgan Gish all had at least 15 kills, but the Dukes were prone to mistakes, which prolonged Fordham point streaks toward the ends of the critical fourth and fifth sets. After a first set loss, the Dukes found their footing in the second and third sets, totaling 13 and 15 kills respectively and keeping the Rams to nine both times.

It was at the end of the third set where Duquesne showed signs of the collapse to come. With a 19-15 lead, Fordham went on a 6-3 run that was inflated by three Duquesne errors to bring the score to 22-21. The Dukes were able to hold the lead with two kills from Hobson and one from Gish, but they couldn’t repeat the escape act in the next two sets. Duquesne led 19-17 in the fourth set before letting up a disastrous streak of six straight Fordham points, again with three errors mixed in, and they went on to drop the set.

In the deciding fifth frame, the Dukes had a four-point lead six different times and were a point away from winning the game before crumbling. With four errors in five straight Fordham points, the Rams took the lead 15-14. Duquesne fought, but lost 18-16 and went to bed having missed an opportunity to start 1-0 in the conference and win in the Bronx for the first time since 2018.

The Dukes righted themselves the next afternoon, however, with a three-set win. Once again, Henschen cleared the 15-kill mark, while sophomore middle Ariel Helm announced herself with a six-block day but the game’s most important factor was that the team was able to keep composure after making errors.

In the first set, Duquesne jumped out to another four-point lead down the homestretch, and despite a few serving errors along the way, they were able to grab the point on serve, receive every time and keep the score back-and-forth, eventually winning the set. The second set proved to be much more calamitous.

From two points down, Fordham went on an 8-1 run with four kills and four Duke errors. Facing a 15-19 deficit, the Dukes climbed back to tie the score at 20 before winning five out of the last eight points to take a commanding two-set lead. The Dukes finished off the day with a blowout in the third. It was their third sweep of the season and their first since nearly a month ago, when they beat Merrimack at the Binghamton Invitational. The win also broke a three-game losing streak and placed their overall record at 6-4.

Duquesne travels to Richmond this weekend where they’ll play a two-game series with VCU. Then, after a 33-day hiatus, the Dukes will return for their first home game at Cooper Fieldhouse against Dayton on Tuesday night.