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Lady Flames Down First-Place Radford in 5-Set Thriller
Liberty and Radford played a spirited, five-set match on Friday at the Vines Center, with the Lady Flames defeating the first-place Highlanders, 3-2 (23-25, 25-23, 25-19, 23-25, 15-9).
Liberty (7-16, 6-4 Big South), moves to within one match of first place in the Big South, with its first five-set victory in three tries this season, and sixth win in its last eight matches. Radford (18-9, 7-3) remains atop the league standings, in spite of seeing its three-match winning streak end.
The Lady Flames outhit Radford, .215-.127, holding the Highlanders to their lowest hitting percentage of the season. Liberty recorded a season-high 14 blocks, compared to 11 for Radford, while the visitors held an 8-7 edge in aces and both teams collected 71 digs.
Liberty senior Jade Craycraft recorded her fourth triple-double of the season, and fifth of her career, with 10 kills, 42 assists, 11 digs and three aces. Redshirt sophomore Caroline Douglas set a season high with 14 kills, in addition to a career-best nine digs. Junior Melissa Racz sent down a season-high 12 kills, to go with five blocks. Redshirt senior Kendle Rollins set a new career high with 10 blocks (three solo, seven assisted).
Senior Lillie Happel (10 kills, 12 digs) registered a double-double, her eighth of 2013. She now ranks 10th in program history with 1,171 career kills. Junior Gabrielle Shipe collected 22 digs, her third 20-dig match in a row.
Three Highlanders recorded double-doubles, in junior Rachel Wiechecki (match-high 17 kills, 17 digs), junior Jena Braden (34 assists, 15 digs) and sophomore Cheyanne James (13 kills, 15 digs). Junior Emma Deininger totaled 13 kills and six blocks, while Kelby Jackson served up a match-high four aces.
Set one featured nine ties and four lead changes, as the teams went back and forth. The Highlanders held the biggest lead of the set, 16-12, after a Wiechecki kill, before Liberty battled back to take a 21-20 lead. Radford then surged ahead, 24-22, after a block by Jesse Miedema and Megan Short, before clinching set one, 25-23, with a kill from Wiechecki.
Radford outhit Liberty, .297-.179, in the opening set, with Wiechecki leading the way with six kills.
The Highlanders aimed for a 2-0 lead, and led the second set, 22-20, after a solo block by Wiechecki. Liberty tied the set at 22-all when Happel recorded a solo block. Following a Short kill, the Lady Flames reeled off three straight points to take set two, 25-23 and even the match.
The Lady Flames posted four team blocks during set two, outhitting Radford, .333-.105, while the visitors served up five aces.
Liberty broke the third stanza open, racing out to a 7-1 lead and doubling Radford's score, 18-9. The Highlanders fought back, trimming the deficit to four points on three occasions, with the last being at 23-19, before Liberty scored the final two points to take a 2-1 match lead.
Craycraft recorded two aces in set three, while Douglas scored four kills, as the Lady Flames hit .176, compared to .067 for Radford.
Radford trailed set four, 21-20, after a Rollins/Craycraft block, Liberty's fourth rejection of the set, and still trailed, 22-21, following a Douglas winner. A quick two points from the Highlanders made it 23-22, RU, before Racz tied it with a kill. Back-to-back kills from Jordan Watson sealed the 25-23 win for Radford, sending the match to a fifth set.
Douglas sent down seven set-four kills, while Wiechecki answered with five kills, and Rollins posted four blocks.
Liberty built a quick 5-2 lead in the final frame, but Radford cut the margin to 7-6 on a Deininger kill. The Lady Flames then staged a 4-0 rally, featuring an ace and a kill by Rollins. Radford drew to within three, 12-9, but McQuitery made it 13-9, and Craycraft's 10th kill of the match sealed the win.
Cracyraft led all players with three kills in set five, as Liberty outhit Radford, .267-.000. The Lady Flames also recorded three aces in the final stanza.
The Lady Flames remain at home for their next two matches, beginning with a contest against High Point, Friday at 5 p.m. Liberty will then play host to Campbell, Saturday at 1 p.m., in the team's final home match of the season.