Oct 27, 2009

Lady Flames sweep up Coastal, Winthrop

by Chris McNair

As part of a four-game road trip, the Lady Flames went up against three of the top teams in the Big South Conference this past week, beginning with a match against Radford Tuesday evening at the Dedmon Center.

It was in this game that Karyl Bacon had a career evening, recording 30 digs to help Liberty defeat the Radford Highlanders, 3-1. Several other Lady Flames had notable performances on the night as well, as five players recorded between eight and 15 kills.
For the fifth consecutive set, the Lady Flames were unable to take the opening game, in which Liberty had an attack percentage of .235, compared to Radford’s .189.

Freshman Loren Thomas dominated set two with her attacking. Her three consecutive kills closed out a 25-16 Liberty win, evening up the match at one set a piece heading into intermission.

In set three the Lady Flames outhit the Highlanders, .293 to .118. Strong play came from Nicki Scripko in the third set, as her fourth kill gave Liberty a 25-20 victory. Courtney Boggs, who made her third consecutive start for the injured Kallie Corbin, also played well on the night. She did a little bit of everything in the fourth and final set to help the Lady Flames capture the victory, nearly earning a triple-double with a match-high 45 assists, a career-high eight kills and eight digs.

Liberty Head Coach Shane Pinder was satisfied with his team’s play but was unsure of Boggs’ acclimation with the rest of the team.

“We played well but we still aren’t sure if we found our groove with Courtney Boggs, but we played efficiently and the key thing was that we limited our unforced errors,” Pinder said.

Liberty ended the match with a .269 attack percentage, more than doubling that of Radford’s. Bacon, along with Kelly Haseman, helped Liberty equal a season high of 83 digs.

On Friday evening, the Lady Flames took on the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers. For Liberty, these games were all about sending a message to the Big South Conference that they belong at the top.

“Going into this weekend I knew it was a chance to make a statement to the rest of the conference and a chance to turn on the heat. Since this is the start of the second half of conference play, it’s almost like a second chance,” senior Brittany Pacella said.

The opening set of the match included a total of 10 ties and four lead changes. Coastal held the lead as late as 13-12, thanks to a Megan Bickford kill. Thomas then contributed two kills and a block during Liberty’s 7-1 burst, which gave them the advantage from that point on. An ace by Karyl Bacon capped off a 25-17 Liberty win.

Despite her two kills and block that helped Liberty win the first set, Thomas still felt some intimidation as a starter.

“I was intimidated at first when I was put into the starting lineup as a freshman but now I’m finding my groove. I’m not worried about the weekend — I’m confident in my team,” Thomas said.

The second set was back-and-forth, and by far the most competitive of the match, featuring 11 ties and seven lead changes.

Bacon again paced the Liberty attack in set two, hitting .250 with five kills. Chelaine McCarty contributed four kills and hit a set-high .500. For the Chanticleers, Chelsy Kimes led all players with a half dozen kills.

Coastal hit an impressive .324 in the third and final set, but that was not enough to catch Liberty as they jumped to a quick 3-0 lead. Nicki Scripko put together her best offensive set of the night, hitting .625 with five kills, one of which sealed Liberty’s 25-18 triumph.

The Lady Flames capped off their Big South sweep on Senior Day at Winthrop on Saturday afternoon, claiming second place in the conference with a record of 14-9 overall and 9-2 in the Big South.
Winthrop, who after being beat by Liberty, has only lost two home matches out of 14 this season. They drop to 16-8 overall, and 8-3 in conference play.

Liberty never gave up the lead in set one. McCarty and Scripko dominated offensively, combining for more kills in the first stanza alone than the entire Winthrop team, 10-9.

The Lady Flames were even better in set two, with a .515 attack percentage. McCarty and Thomas spearheaded the offensive onslaught for the Lady Flames as each racked up four kills.

In the third and final set, Pacella played outstanding. She notched a kill and two aces during a set-opening 4-1 burst. Liberty held onto the lead until Thomas finished the Lady Flames’ 25-21 win with her sixth kill of the stanza.

“Now that my career is coming down to the wire it puts the games into perspective and I know I have something to offer because of my experience. I’m going to give it all I got,” Pacella said.

Liberty will conclude its four-match road swing Tuesday, when it makes its first of two scheduled trips to Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Match time is slated for 7 p.m. at Alltel Pavilion for the Lady Flames’ final non-conference tilt prior to the Big South Championship.

Contact Chris McNair at cjmcnair@liberty.edu.


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