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Happel Joins 1,000-Kill Club in 3-0 Liberty Setback at No. 21 Kentucky
Liberty senior outside hitter Lillie Happel recorded her 1,000th career kill on Saturday, as the Lady Flames fell to No. 21 Kentucky, 3-0 (25-22, 25-17, 25-20) at Memorial Coliseum.
The Wildcats improve their record to 3-2, winning for the third match in a row. Liberty (1-6) sustained three straight setbacks during this weekend's Kentucky Classic.
Happel became the 14th member of Liberty's 1,000-kill club, joining current Liberty assistant coaches Jennifer (Belk) Vaden and Becky Rudnick. Happel scored 13 kills, giving her 1,001 for her carer, and she added eight digs.
Kentucky held a .263-.174 edge in hitting percentage, and outblocked the Lady Flames, 8-6 while also leading, 54-46, in digs.
Senior Jade Craycraft led the Lady Flames with 25 assists in addition to nine digs. Craycraft was named to the Kentucky Classic All-Tournament team. Junior Gabrielle Shipe collected a team-best 10 digs, while redshirt senior Kendle Rollins recorded four blocks, and freshman Susan Babcock contributed seven kills.
For Kentucky, senior Whitney Billings scored a match-high 14 kills, while freshman Anni Thomasson had a double-double with 12 kills and 13 digs. Sophomore Morgan Bergren dished out a match-best 40 assists, and junior Jackie Napper led all players with 16 digs.
Kentucky opened set one on a 7-0 run, and built a 9-1 lead after 10 serves. Trailing, 15-10, Liberty jumped ahead by scoring seven consecutive points. After the Wildcats surged back into the lead, 19-18, on Thomasson's seventh kill, Nzea McQuitery tied it with a kill of her own. Kentucky scored the next two points, but a pair of Lady Flames blocks kept the visitors within one, 22-21. The Wildcats then surged to the finish, winning, 25-22.
Kentucky held an 18-11 edge in kills during the opening session, led by eight winners from Thomasson. Liberty totaled 5.0 team blocks, with Rollins factoring in on three rejections.
During set two, the Lady Flames trimmed the deficit to one, 13-12, following back-to-back Happel aces. Consecutive kills by Bergren helped spur a 3-0 Kentucky run, making it 16-12. After Liberty converted on two straight serves, the Wildcats pulled away with a set-closing 8-3 rally during which Bergren and Alexandra Morgan posted two combination blocks. In the process, Kentucky took a 2-0 lead into intermission.
The hosts outhit Liberty, .289-.108, in set two, with Kentucky's Billings recording six kills.
The Wildcats built a 19-11 set-three advantage before Happel scored her 1,000th career kill. Kentucky maintained an eight-point lead, 21-13, and then Babcock sparked a 4-1 Lady Flames run with consecutive kills. Kentucky closed out the match, with Sarah Schwarzwalder's two kills keying a late run and Thomasson sending down the clinching kill.
Kentucky hit .297 with 15 kills during the final set, while Liberty posted 14 kills at a .222 pace. Happel scored six kills, and Billings answered with five kills of her own.
The Lady Flames will next compete in the Duke Invitational, next Friday and Saturday. While in Durham, Liberty will compete against the host Duke Blue Devils, along with Utah State and South Carolina.