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Top-Seeded Radford Advances to BSC final With 5-Set Win Over No. 4 Seed Liberty
The No. 1 seed Radford Highlanders edged two-time defending champion and No. 4 seed Liberty, 3-2 (25-21, 20-25, 17-25, 25-20, 21-19), during a marathon match in the first semifinal of the 2013 Big South Volleyball Championship, Friday at the Templeton Center.
With the win, its sixth in a row, Radford (24-9) advances to Sunday's Big South Volleyball Championship final against the winner of No. 2 seed Coastal Carolina and No. 3 seed High Point. The Lady Flames entered the match with a four-match winning streak, and saw their season come to a close at 11-18. Prior to this season, Liberty had qualified for each of the last six Big South finals.
Radford held a slight .209-.200 advantage in attack percentage, while also leading, 73-68, in digs. The Lady Flames outblocked Radford, 13.5-10, while holding a 7-4 lead in aces.
Liberty senior Lillie Happel recorded 18 kills and added 12 digs, making her the 20th Lady Flame to reach 1,000 career digs. Redshirt senior Kendle Rollins hit .579 with 12 kills, in addition to six blocks. Rollins finishes her career fourth in program history with 423 career blocks. Senior Jade Craycraft recorded 10 kills, 41 assists, eight digs and five blocks, while fellow senior Becca Haraf collected 13 digs.
Junior Gabrielle Shipe led all players with 24 digs and a career-high four aces. Redshirt sophomore Caroline Douglas contributed nine kills, while junior Melissa Racz had six blocks and freshman Susan Babcock totaled five blocks.
For Radford, Rachel Wiechecki sent down a match-high 27 kills and added 19 digs. Cheyanne James recorded 16 kills and 19 digs, while Emma Deininger chipped in 13 kills and five blocks. Jena Braden dished out a match-high 48 assists and also had nine digs.
The Lady Flames gained a 15-12 lead on a Rollins-Craycraft block during a back-and-forth set one. After nine rally points, a 3-0 Radford surge put the Highlanders ahead, 20-19. McQuitery put Liberty back in the lead with back-to-back kills. A pair of Highlander blocks keyed Radford's four-point set-closing run, with a Wiechecki kill giving the Highlanders the 25-21 win.
Radford outhit Liberty, .233-.158, during set one, with Wiechecki scoring seven kills. Happel countered with six kills for the Lady Flames.
Set two began with the Highlanders holding a majority of the momentum, as Radford took a 16-10 lead after James' kill. Douglas then sparked the Lady Flames' decisive 11-0 rally with a kill. Rollins scored five kills during the 11-point rally, giving Liberty a 21-16 lead. The Highlanders battled back to within three on two occasions, 22-19 and 23-20, on Weichecki kills, but Liberty scored on the next two serves, tying up the match.
Liberty held a .263-.250 hitting advantage during the second set, as Rollins led all players with six kills on seven attempts. James responded with five kills for Radford.
The Lady Flames quickly built an 18-10 led in set three, on the way to a 25-17 victory, as Liberty took a 2-1 match lead. The Highlanders drew to within six, 20-14, but could get no closer. Liberty outhit Radford, .240-.152, during the third set, while posting three blocks. Happel led Liberty with three kills, while Babcock and Craycraft had two blocks apiece. Wiechecki sent down five kills for Radford.
Liberty looked to close out the match during set four, leading 18-17 after a Rollins-Craycraft block. Radford then outscored the Lady Flames, 8-2, down the stretch, extending the match with a 25-20 set-four victory. The Highlanders hit .464 during the fourth stanza, led by an 8-for-13 hitting performance by Wiechecki. Liberty hit .286, led by four kills each from Happel and Craycraft.
Set five featured 13 ties and nine lead changes, as both teams played with championship intensity. After trailing, 7-5, Radford scored the next four points to take a 9-7 lead. Liberty battled into the lead, 10-9, and later received match-point tries, 14-12, after a Douglas kill. Radford fought off a total of four match-point chances, and cashed in on its third clinching opportunity, as Wiechecki served up an ace for the 21-19 set-five win.
Liberty hit .065 during the fifth set, while holding Radford to a .023 hitting percentage with 5.5 blocks. Racz posted five block assists, while Deininger and Wiechecki scored four kills apiece for the Highlanders.