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Gardner-Webb Rallies Late, Pulls Out 3-2 Win at Liberty
Liberty took a 2-0 lead after two sets on Friday at the Vines Center, before the visiting Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs won the final three sets, downing the Lady Flames, 3-2 (12-25, 20-25, 25-18, 25-20, 18-16).
With the win, Gardner-Webb improves to 8-10, including 1-1 in Big South play. The Lady Flames (1-14, 0-2 Big South) fell for the 11th match in a row, and played in the Vines Center for the first time since Sept. 3. Liberty had not played in a five-set match since Nov. 2, 2012 at High Point.
Friday's match brought two impressive streaks to an end for Liberty, a 15-match home winning streak and a program-record 21-match conference home winning streak. Liberty's last loss at home was Oct. 11, 2011 against VCU.
The Lady Flames hit .208 for the match, but cooled off after a .407 spree during set one. Gardner-Webb attacked at a .179 pace. Liberty held a 10-6 lead in blocks, and recorded a season-high 93 digs, compared to 87 for the Runnin' Bulldogs.
Liberty senior Jade Craycraft recorded a triple-double for the second match in a row, with 10 kills, 38 assists and a career-high 19 digs. Seniors Lillie Happel and Kendle Rollins both tallied 16 kills, with Rollins hitting .538 and adding four blocks and Happel registering nine digs. Sophomore Allie Reynolds and junior Gabrielle Shipe collected 18 digs apiece, while senior Becca Haraf totaled a season-high 17 digs. Freshman Nzea McQuitery had a match-high five blocks.
Gardner-Webb senior Erin Anderson led all players with 18 kills, and was one of four Runnin' Bulldogs with a double-double. Freshman Brianna Starr had 13 kills and 12 digs, while senior Emily Holte totaled 13 kills and 14 digs. Junior Heather Feldman dished out 49 assists in addition to 17 digs, while sophomore Anna Pashkova totaled a match-high 23 digs.
The Lady Flames raced to a 25-12 set-one victory, leading from start to finish while hitting .407 as a team. Happel and Craycraft both recorded four kills during the opening set.
During set two, Liberty staged a three-point run to gain the lead, 18-15. Rollins' sixth kill of the set later gave Liberty a 20-17 advantage. Gardner-Webb narrowed the gap to two, 22-20, when Tyra Montour sent down a kill, but the Lady Flames closed out the set with three straight points, 25-20, taking a 2-0 lead into intermission
Liberty outhit Gardner-Webb, .227-.250 in set two, with Rollins' 6-0-7 hitting line leading all players.
Gardner-Webb led from 2-1 until the end of the third set, connecting at a .432 pace on the attack to extend the match with a 25-18 set-three victory. Anderson and Starr recorded five kills apiece for the visitors, while Rollins added four kills for the Lady Flames.
The Runnin' Bulldogs and Lady Flames went back and forth throughout set four. Gardner-Webb held an early, 7-3 lead, but Liberty battled back, and took a 13-10 lead thanks to a four-point run. The Lady Flames later broke a 16-16 tie, with two Rollins-Melissa Racz blocks keying a 4-1 run which gave Liberty a 20-17 edge. Gardner-Webb took over the set from there, finishing on an 8-0 spurt that included two aces from Amanda Murphy and tied the match at two sets apiece.
Holte recorded six kills during the fourth set, while Happel converted on four out of five swings for the Lady Flames.
Although it was the shortest set, set five had 10 ties and six lead changes. The Lady Flames grabbed momentum early, with Happel scoring a kill to make it 7-3, Liberty. Gardner-Webb then reeled off the next five points, and led, 8-7, at the changeover. Trailing, 13-12, Happel then scored a kill and a block, giving Liberty a match point try at 14-13. Starr scored kills on the next two serves, for a 15-14 GWU advantage. Happel staved off match point twice with kills, before consecutive Anderson kills clinched the match for Gardner-Webb, 18-16.
Anderson and Happel each recorded five kills during the final set, finishing off strong hitting nights for both seniors.
The Lady Flames close out their brief Big South homestand tomorrow afternoon, taking on UNC Asheville at 2 p.m. inside the Vines Center.