Sep 15, 2009

Lady Flames Fight Hard but finish 1-2 at Cardinal Classic ?

by Chris McNair

In its third tournament of the season, the Liberty Lady Flames volleyball team competed in the Cardinal Classic this weekend at Cardinal Arena in Louisville, Ky.

The Flames went against several formidable opponents, the first of which was undefeated Toledo, followed by defending Ohio Valley Conference champion, Tennessee Tech. The Lady Flames capped off the tournament against the tournament’s host and the Big East favorite, the Louisville Cardinals.

The Lady Flames entered the tournament coming off an impressive performance the previous week in their own Liberty Invitational, in which they finished 2-1. It was also in this tournament that junior Karyl Bacon went down with an ankle injury, forcing the Lady Flames to continue that tournament and enter this one shorthanded. Going into this tournament was very different from the previous two as a result of Bacon’s absence.

“It was a different week with injuries and they had to come into this tournament trying to find what worked,” Pinder said.

Bacon’s spark and relentless will to win is what had been the driving force thus far this season for the Lady Flames. Without her leadership, the Lady Flames looked to freshman Hannah Anderson to fill Bacon’s spot.

Opening up against Toledo, Liberty quickly jumped ahead to a 9-3 lead, but ended up losing the first set 25-21. In the second game, Lady Flames sophomore Kelly Haseman led all players in both digs (4) and service aces (2) but despite her impressive play, Toledo outhit Liberty, .308 to -.057 to run away with the game, 25-16. Leading the way for Toledo was the Margot Joniec and Sondra Parys duo, who both hit .500 with three kills for the set.
Junior Nicki Scripko played well for the Lady Flames as the junior’s 15 kills paced all players and pushed her season total to 100.

Senior Chelaine McCarty chipped in with seven kills, hitting a team high .308. But Toledo was able to come up with the win, handing Liberty a 3-0 sweep.

Despite the loss, the team’s growth is what Coach Pinder is impressed with.

“I think we really grew as a team, and our loss to Toledo was tough but we were a great team,” Pinder said.

The defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Golden Eagles of Tennessee Tech were the Lady Flames’ second opponent in the Cardinal Classic.

Scripko recorded a season and game-high 23 kills on the night, nine of which were recorded in the match’s decisive fifth set. She also had an attack percentage of .533 to lead the Lady Flames to a 3-2 victory.

With their backs against the wall for a substantial portion of the match, Tennessee Tech fought hard, led by Leah Meffert who posted six kills. Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, Meffert’s efforts were not enough to surmount the Lady Flames’ onslaught.

Sparking the Lady Flames was senior setter Kallie Corbin who recorded a season-high 51 assists, five kills and five digs.
Likewise, Haseman contributed well on the defensive side of the net, leading all players with 20 kills, while Anderson finished with a team-high six blocks.

Coach Pinder was thankful to be able to get a solid win against Tennessee Tech, and was also impressed with strong play from Nicki Scripko, who attributes the win to her teammates’ perseverance despite being shorthanded.

“I had total confidence that we could pull off a win this weekend even having several teammates out. After our loss to Toledo, we were ready to make a statement and prove that we could come back,” Scripko said.

Mistakes are another thing that plagued the Lady Flames in the matches that they lost. Eliminating them was a huge factor in their win over Tennessee Tech.

According to Chelaine McCarty, they really just had to eliminate their mistakes as a team in order to win the match and not play down to the other team’s levels, but to play how they knew they could.

Liberty’s final opponent was the Louisville Cardinals, who started the season picked to finish first in the Big East Conference.

Louisville took control early, with a 9-1 surge in the first set, led by Lola Arslanbekova, whose kill capped off the run. The Cardinals used the 9-1 lead to surge ahead to an easy 25-16 win.

The second set was a seesaw battle in which the Lady Flames and Cardinals exchanged the lead four times and were tied 11 times. Scripko totaled six kills during the second set, which the Lady Flames took 25-22, evening the match at 1-1.

Midway through the pivotal third set, in which Louisville hit an impressive .517, the Cardinals broke out of a 12-12 tie with kills by Justine Landi, Anastasia Artemeva and Arslanbekova. The Cardinals led the rest of the way, and moved ahead 2-1 with a 25-19 win.

Louisville finished off the Lady Flames in the fourth set despite squandering two six-point leads. The Lady Flames fought back to even the score at 20 before Louisville went on a 3-0 run and seized the final game’s momentum by securing a 25-22 victory.
On the evening, Louisville finished with a .361 team attack percentage, which is the highest a team has hit versus the Lady Flames since Charlotte hit .415 back in Oct. 2006. The Cardinals also dominated the net, racking up 12 blocks to Liberty’s five.

It is no surprise that in the final match of the tournament, Scripko and Corbin stood out among all players with their play that would eventually lead to all-tournament team honors.

Corbin totaled 38 assists on the evening, leading the Flames in attack. Scripko also contributed with a total of 20 kills.

The Lady Flames finished the tournament 1-2 and will travel to Winston-Salem, N.C. this weekend for their final tournament, the
Black and Gold Challenge, before conference play begins.

They will kick off the tournament with a 4:30 p.m. match against Appalachian State before facing Duke and Wake Forest on Saturday.

Contact Chris McNair at cjmcnair@liberty.edu.

 


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