After a brief stay in Lynchburg for its home opener against Georgetown, the Liberty University Lady Flames volleyball team (1-6) visited Lexington, Ky., for the Kentucky Classic, Sept. 6-7, where it fell in three straight matches.
The Lady Flames took on Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) and East Tennessee State University (ETSU) Friday, and played the host, the No. 21 Kentucky Wildcats, Saturday.
“We knew that we were going to have to use a couple different lineups, with some players playing in new positions and true freshmen playing big minutes,” Head Coach Shane Pinder said. “We knew that it would be a challenge competing against three very good programs.”
In the Lady Flames first match, VCU posted 25-19, 25-11 and 25-15 wins in each of the sets and hit .544 as a team. Liberty only hit .069.
The Lady Flames pulled within three points of the Rams lead in the first set, before the Rams finished the game on a 5-2 run. Liberty floundered and recorded five more kills than errors in the game. Despite Liberty’s effort at the beginning of set three, VCU pulled ahead and recorded 20 kills to secure the match.
Seniors Lillie Happel and Jade Craycraft, who tallied six digs apiece in the match, led the Lady Flames.
In the second set, Liberty faced defending Atlantic Sun conference champion ETSU. ETSU won all three games (25-16, 25-20, 25-21) and led the match in kills, recording 45 to Liberty’s 28. Craycraft, the Lady Flames setter, aided in 19 Liberty kills.
In the first set, Liberty recorded the same number of kills as errors, hitting .000. After tying the Buccaneers twice in the second set, Liberty allowed ETSU to end the game on a 5-0 run. ETSU also controlled the third set, outhitting Liberty .433-.107.
“During the VCU match on Friday, we just couldn’t keep up with their offense,” Pinder said. “We ran into a similar situation against (ETSU), where, offensively, we were not able to score enough on the attack consistently.”
In Liberty’s final match of the Kentucky Classic, the Lady Flames took on the Kentucky Wildcats. The Wildcats outhit the Lady Flames .263-.174 in the match and recorded 54 digs to Liberty’s 46.
Craycraft led the Flames with 25 assists and nine digs in the match. Shipe contributed to the Lady Flames defense with 10 digs, and redshirt senior Kendle Rollins added four blocks.
Liberty stuck with Kentucky in a tightly contested first set before succumbing 25-22. Following the opening set, the Lady Flames came within two points of the Kentucky lead before the Wildcats went on a 9-3 run to seal the set, 25-17. In their final set, the Lady Flames went down to Kentucky, 25-20.
According to libertyflames.com, Happel recorded the 1,000th kill of her career in the last set. She is only the 14th person in Liberty volleyball history to hit the
“(I) knew it was in sight but did not want that individual goal to take from our team focus this weekend,” Happel said. “I thank God first for the opportunity to play at this university and secondly my coaches and teammates who have made this milestone possible.”
Liberty will continue its road campaign at the Duke Invitational in Durham, N.C., Friday and Saturday, Sept. 13-14.