The Lady Flames volleyball team fell short against the No. 8 Minnesota Golden Gophers in three sets (25-21, 25-10, 34-32) Friday, Nov. 30 in the first round of the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship.
Liberty concluded its 2012 season with a 25-8 record. The match against Minnesota was the Lady Flames seventh national tournament appearance. Liberty entered the match on a 10-match winning streak, hoping to keep it alive.
Kendle Rollins and Melissa Racz’ block in the first set broke a 13-13 tie. Minnesota went on a five-point rally to take an 18-15 lead.
Minnesota’s hitting average of .324, was significantly better than Liberty’s .250. The Golden Gophers followed their first set win with a dominant performance in the second.
Minnesota was able to pull ahead halfway through the set, going on an 8-0 run to take a commanding 15-3 lead that was too much for Liberty to overcome. Minnesota won the lopsided set 25-10.
“They got us pretty good in that second one,” Pinder said. “We talked about resolve and the heart of a champion, coming out and playing strong in the third set.”
Despite falling into an 11-5 deficit at the beginning of the set, the Lady Flames fought back and spurred a four-point run followed by a five-point run. Liberty took their first lead (18-17) on a block by Jade Craycraft and Loren Thomas.
Moments later, Craycraft put down a kill to give Liberty a 20-17 advantage — its largest lead of the match. The Lady Flames were ahead at the first match point 24-23, but the Golden Gophers outlasted Liberty in a marathon match-point duel. The lead was exchanged four times until Minnesota won with an ace on its sixth match-point try (34-32).
Liberty outhit Minnesota .295 to .185. Lillie Happel and Douglas posted five kills each.
Douglas finished the match with 12 total kills, and Happel finished with nine. Loren Thomas recorded seven kills and five blocks. Craycraft added 23 assists, seven kills, six digs and three blocks to the match. Gabrielle Shipe contributed 11 digs, putting her over the 500 mark for the year.
“This life journey is about creating memories, and tonight our group, although we fell short, has great memories to take with them when they take the volleyball shoes off,” Pinder said.