Nov 18, 2008

Volleyball clinches share of Big South title

by Jake Petersen and Thomas Lourdeau

The Liberty Flames volleyball team kicked off a week of action with the hopes of securing at least a share of the Big South Conference Title and put themselves in prime position thanks to a 3-0 sweep of the High Point Panthers in North Carolina on Tuesday.

The Flames entered the contest looking to rebound from a 3-2 loss at home at the hands of the Panthers and returned the favor as they handed High Point its third home loss of the season.

Despite the sweep, the Flames had their share of struggles against a record home crowd of over 1000 for the Panthers.
The Flames dominated defensively, boasting a +21 dig ratio (87 to 66) as they held the Panthers to a .235 attack percentage.
The Flames showed resiliency in rebounding from an early deficit in set one as they went on a 10-3 scoring run before holding off a tenacious High Point rally which tied the score at 19 apiece. Liberty then defended three straight set points and rallied to take the set 27-25.

Liberty miscues at the onset of set two contributed to a 6-0 early deficit as the Flames one again found themselves fighting through adversity. However, Liberty stayed in the set and rallied to a 14-13 lead before securing a 25-20 advantage and a set two victory.
Liberty took advantage of High Point miscues in set three, rallying to an 8-2 early advantage, and it would prove to be insurmountable for the Panthers as the Flames secured a 25-21 set victory.

The win gave the Flames a share of first place heading into Saturday’s home contest.

Saturday marked the final regular season contest for the Lady Flames as they played host to the visiting Winthrop Eagles, pulling off a 3-0 sweep and earning a share of the regular season Big South Conference title.

Before the game, Liberty honored graduating seniors Jessica Nelson, Carmen Steeper and Ashley Webber. As it turned out, all three players had a hand in the Lady Flames sweep of the Eagles.

“We’ve all gotten to the point where we share the same vision, which is to win. As we bring in new players and share that vision, we are all able to remain on the same page,” Webber said following the win. “After the loss against Presbyterian and being able to bounce back I know we have everything it takes to win the Big South.”

Nelson, who tallied a match-high 17 digs, was the star of a Lady Flames defense which held Big South Preseason Player of the Year Shannon Sitzmann to 13 kills and an Eagle offense to a .038 attack percentage.

Streeper, who hails from nearby Rustburg, pitched in two kills, three digs and a service ace to Liberty’s 25-13 win in the middle set. Webber totaled four kills and four out of seven Liberty blocks.

Liberty jumped out to a 6-0 lead behind junior setter Kallie Corbin’s serving as the Beaverton, Ore. native served for six straight points, including two aces, to start off the first game.

Sitzmann led the Eagles with six kills in set one, but it was Nelson’s kill that topped off the 25-17 set one victory for the Lady Flames.
The Lady Flames pulled ahead in the second set to 20-10 after a seven kill burst led by McCarty, Bacon and Streeper. McCarty put down three kills, while Bacon recorded two of her five kills in the set during the spree. Streeper put down the final two kills in the 25-13 set two win.

The final stanza was closer than the second, as Winthrop and Liberty battled to 11 ties and six lead changes. With the score tied at 13, the Lady Flames engineered a 5-0 run that would have reached six had Scripko’s attempt not been blocked by Kaley Viola and Sara Felts. Promptly, it was Nelson and Webber who ended their careers and the final game at the Vines Center this season in style, as the duo recorded the final three kills of the Lady Flames 25-18 victory.

The Lady Flames will attempt to defend their 2007 Big South championship as a No. 1 seed in this weekend’s Big South Volleyball Championship, with their first match coming on Friday against No. 8 Gardner-Webb. Liberty defeated Gardner-Webb twice this season, and if it wins its opening match, it will face either Winthrop or UNC-Asheville on Saturday at 7 p.m. The championship game will be on Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m., with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Division-I Volleyball Championship.


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