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Lady Flames Down Radford, 3-1, in Big South Opener; Pinder Ties Program Wins Record
The Liberty volleyball team knocked off defending Big South champion Radford, 3-1 (25-21, 23-25, 26-24, 25-13), in both teams' conference opener on Friday at the Vines Center.
The win was the 198th in the head coaching career of Liberty's 11th-year head coach Shane Pinder. He tied Chris Phillips for the most coaching victories in program history.
Liberty pushed its record to 13-5, 1-0 in Big South play with its fourth straight win, while Radford fell to 10-5, 0-1 in conference action. The Lady Flames are now 18-6 all-time in conference openers. Friday' contest was a rematch of the 2013 Big South semifinal, which the Highlanders won, 3-2.
The Lady Flames scored 67 kills at a .254 pace, compared to 42 kills at .135 for the Highlanders. Liberty outdug Radford, 87-71, while holding a 4-3 edge in aces. Radford led, 11-9, in blocks.
Liberty redshirt junior Caroline Douglas recorded 21 kills and nine digs, good for her third straight 20-kill match. Freshman Hannah Weidner reached double-figures for the 12th match in a row, with 17 kills on Friday. Freshman Sirena Vorster registered a career-high 13 kills, hitting .500 to go along with four blocks. Junior Caila Stapleton recorded 48 assists and a career-high 25 digs. Classmate Jade Vorster posted nine kills and four blocks.
Senior Gabrielle Shipe registered her second career double-double, with 10 assists and 24 digs. Shipe is now ranked sixth in program history with 1,495 career digs, passing Karyl Bacon (2007-10) and Erin McKeown (2000-03) on Friday. Sophomore Kate Corson collected 11 digs, while junior Rachel Smoltz totaled 10 digs.
Radford senior Rachel Wiechecki led her team with 13 kills and 20 digs, while freshman Maddie Palmer scored 12 kills and two aces. Senior Savannah Cantrell posted a match-high eight blocks, while classmate Jena Braden totaled 33 assists and 16 digs. Sophomore Kelby Jackson collected 13 digs and sophomore Savanna Burton added 10 digs.
Liberty led set one from start to finish, taking a 1-0 match lead by claiming a 25-21 victory. The Lady Flames led, 23-18, after Douglas' sixth kill of the set. Radford battled to within 24-21 following a kill and an ace from Palmer, but a Jade Vorster kill clinched the set for Liberty. The Lady Flames hit .140 with 15 kills during the opening stanza, while Radford hit -.050 with seven kills. Douglas scored six kills for the Lady Flames.
Set two proved to be the most hard-fought set of the match, with 13 ties and five lead changes. Radford won the race to 20, at 20-19 following a quick two-point spurt. After five rally points, Liberty took a 23-22 lead when Gabrielle Vess and Sirena Vorster rejected a Cantrell attack. The Highlanders answered, as Cantrell assisted on back-to-back blocks. Wiechecki then sent down a kill for the 25-23 win to tie the match, 1-1.
Both teams found an offensive rhythm during the second set, with Radford outhitting Liberty, .278-.263. Douglas recorded six kills during set two, while Cantrell posted four block assists.
The Lady Flames led by as many as seven points, 15-7, in the third frame before Radford went on an 11-3 run to tie the score at 18-all. Wiechecki served up an ace and Short posted two kills during the guests' score-tying 6-0 run. Liberty quickly regained the lead, 20-19. After nine straight sideouts, a Liberty error knotted the score, 24-24. Freshmen Vess and Vorster then scored consecutive kills to seal the 26-24, set three victory.
Liberty outhit Radford, .250-.170, during the third session. Weidner led all players with six kills, while Palmer recorded five kills for the Highlanders.
The hosts put the match out of reach, with three early aces sparking Liberty's 14-3 burst to open set four. The Highlanders got to within nine, 15-6, on a Wiechecki kill, but got no closer, as the Lady Flames won set four, 25-13. Liberty tripled Radford's kill total during the final stanza, 18-6, while holding a .389 to .152 advantage in hitting percentage. Weidner scored seven kills for the hosts.
Liberty heads to North Carolina for its next two matches, beginning with a 7 p.m. match on Friday at Gardner-Webb. The Lady Flames will then compete at UNC Asheville on Saturday at 2 p.m.