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UMBC Edges Liberty, 3-1
Liberty and UMBC contested a spirited, four-set match, with the Retrievers prevailing, 3-1 (25-17, 24-26, 25-18, 25-23) over the Lady Flames on Saturday at WVU Coliseum.
UMBC (8-4) extended its winning streak to seven matches with the victory in its first match at the WVU Gold & Blue Players Challenge. The Lady Flames (1-11) fell for the eighth match in a row, going 0-2 at this weekend's event.
Saturday's contest was a rematch of the 1997 Big South Volleyball Championship final, which Liberty won to capture its first-ever conference tournament title.
The Retrievers held a .230-.100 lead in hitting percentage for the match, and UMBC led, 79-63 in digs. Liberty outblocked UMBC, 10-8, and led, 5-3 in aces.
Liberty senior Lillie Happel sent down a match-high 16 kills, while freshman Nzea McQuitery tied her career high with 11 kills. Senior Jade Craycraft recorded 35 assists and 11 digs, for her 26th career double-double. Redshirt senior Kendle Rollins registered seven blocks and two aces, while sophomore Allie Reynolds collected a career-high 15 digs. Junior Gabrielle Shipe had 14 digs, and sophomore Monica Johnson posted four blocks.
UMBC senior Ali Goc recorded 13 kills and 10 digs, while senior Emily Witsaman and sophomore Sherelle Walker both had 12 kills. Junior Hannah Schmidt collected a match-high 19 digs, ad Mallory McIntyre totaled 45 assists and 12 digs.
The Retrievers took a 9-5 lead after an early 7-0 run in set one. UMBC led, 18-11, following back-to-back kills from Goc. Rollins then scored two kills and assisted on a block, helping draw the Lady flames to within three, 18-15. However, the Retrievers outscored Liberty, 7-2, over the last nine serves to take the opening set.
UMBC outhit Liberty, .290-.048, during the opening set, as Witsaman led all players by sending down five kills.
Liberty won a back-and-forth second set, 26-24. Witsaman gave UMBC a 19-17 lead with a kill, and Liberty responded by staging a 5-0 run that included an ace by Johnson. UMBC scored the next five points, gaining set point chances at 24-21. The Lady Flames fought off three set points, ending the set on a 5-0 run, with a Craycraft-McQuitery block tying the match, 1-1.
The Retrievers held a .214-.178 edge in hitting percentage in the second set. Happel and UMBC's Walker both scored six kills during set two.
UMBC answered with a 25-18 set-three victory, outhitting the Lady Flames, .229-.000. Goc recorded two of her set-high six kills during a 4-0 UMBC rally, giving the Retrievers a 15-7 advantage. The closest Liberty would get the rest of the way was 24-18, as UMBC took a 2-1 match lead.
Liberty surged out to a 7-0 lead while Rollins served to open set four. UMBC slowly chipped away at the deficit, but the Lady Flames still led, 19-15, after a kill from Haley Jeffcoat. Trailing, 20-17, the Retrievers staged a 5-0 run, capped by a McIntyre kill. After a Liberty sideout, McQuitery tied the set, 22-22. UMBC converted on the next two rallies, and cashed in on its second match-point try, 25-23.
The Retrievers hit .200 in the final set, compared to .154 for Liberty. Johnson scored five kills in set four.
The Lady Flames return to the Commonwealth of Virginia, where they will open Big South Conference play at Radford on Friday at 7 p.m. Liberty is 17-5 all-time in conference openers, and has won each of its last eight Big South lid-lifters in a row