Volleyball clinches No. 1 seed
Liberty’s volleyball team swept the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs in three sets (25-21, 25-20, 25-20) Saturday, Nov. 10, while they celebrated senior day.
Prior to the match, the Lady Flames recognized seniors Lauren Bosché, Erica Manor, Kendle Rollins and Loren Thomas.
With its victory Nov. 9 against University of North Carolina (UNC) Asheville, Liberty clinched the regular season Big South Championship. Against Gardner-Webb, they also won their 14th straight-home match and a program-record of 21 conference home matches in a row.
“Every team starts off each year with goals and expectations, and one of ours is to have a chance to be at the top and possibly win a regular season championship,” Head Coach Shane Pinder said.
Liberty led Gardner-Webb in hitting average, .280 to .152. Caroline Douglas led the team with 13 kills, and Lillie Happel followed with 10 kills.
The Lady Flames led the Runnin’ Bulldogs in digs 55-46. Liberty’s Gabrielle Shipe led in digs with 16 with Becca Haraf following with 14.
The first set included eight ties and five lead changes. Liberty hit .412, while Gardner Webb hit .237. The Lady Flames were able to pull off the win as Jade Craycraft ended the set on a kill.
The Runnin’ Bulldogs had an early lead in set two, 14-6. The Lady Flames crawled back into the match with a 12-4 rally to tie the score at 18-all. With kills from both Douglas and Happel, the Flames took the lead and pulled off a 25-20 win.
“We got a little off-rhythm than what we wanted to do, and they made a few plays. I wasn’t worried about that set,” Pinder said. “It was just about getting back in rhythm.”
Liberty took control early in the third set with a 20-10 lead over Gardner-Webb. The Runnin’ Bulldogs then went on a 6-0 rally, putting them within four points. Liberty did not let it get any closer and pushed for a 25-20 win.
The Lady Flames seniors were proud to end their last regular season home game with a win.
“I have learned so much outside volleyball just being here, being on this team and playing under Coach Pinder and being around such godly girls,” Thomas said.
“It has been such a blessing and an amazing journey. I’ve learned so much through being here at Liberty. It has really helped me develop as a person,” Rollins said.
Manor spent her last season out with an injury but was still a huge asset to the team, according Pinder.
“She’s come every day and finds a way to add value to our program by the way she carries herself,” he said.
“Getting to spend time with and getting to know these girls have been great,” Manor said.
“I’ve been surrounded by great coaches and players that love the Lord, and I think realizing (that) it is so much bigger than volleyball is a blessing,” senior Lauren Bosche said.
Pinder expressed how important this group of girls was to the team.
“They are leaving something bigger than numbers, and it’s a legacy, and it’s relationships, and it’s their walk with Christ that shines when it is all said and done,” Pinder said.
The Lady Flames will head to Boiling Springs, N.C. Nov. 15 as they compete in the Big South Championship Tournament.