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Liberty Falls Short at Winthrop in Battle of Conference Leaders
Liberty is now 10-7 overall and 2-1 in Big South action, after wrapping up a three-match road swing to open conference play. Meanwhile, Winthrop improves to 7-9 overall and takes over the outright conference lead at 3-0. The Eagles have won 57-straight contests versus Big South foes.
An early 7-1 surge helped homestanding Winthrop open up an 11-4 lead in game one. Middle hitter Shannon Sitzmann, the Big South Preseason Player of the Year, contributed three kills and a block assist during the burst. Liberty made a late run and closed the gap to 29-27 on consecutive Jessica Nelson (R-Jr., OH, Tokyo, Japan) kills. However, Sitzmann's ninth kill of the opening game sealed a 30-27 Winthrop triumph.
Winthrop led from start to finish in the second game and took a 2-0 lead into the intermission. Tara Toepke posted a kill and a block assist during a game-opening 4-0 burst. She went on to post a team-high six kills during the game. The Eagles prevailed by a 30-24 count, despite Chelaine McCarty's (So., MB, Houston, Ala.) six kills and .417 attack percentage for the visitors.
McCarty continued her strong play into the early stages of game three, notching a pair of kills during a 10-4 run, which broke a tie and lifted the Lady Flames to a 13-7 lead. Liberty extended its edge to 20-10 on a solo block by Nelson. Defense was a key to the Lady Flames' 30-25 triumph, as Liberty posted five blocks and 23 digs during the stanza. Ashley Webber (Jr., MB, Lakeside, Calif.) had a hand in three of the blocks and Lara Bartolomeo (Sr., L/DS, Huntington Beach, Calif.) came up with a game-high seven digs.
Winthrop broke a 19-all tie in game four with a 10-5 surge, earning five match points. The resilient Lady Flames fought off all five, though, and knotted the game at 29 apiece. Alysson Sanders (R-Jr., OH, Bear, Del.) came off coach Shane Pinder's bench to provide consecutive kills during the run. Sitzmann then returned to the forefront for Winthrop, pounding down two kills and helping the Eagles close out a 32-30 victory.
McCarty paced three Liberty players in double figures in the kill category with 17 kills and recorded a .324 attack percentage. Nicki Scripko (Fr., OH/RS, Fayetteville, N.C.) and Nelson both recorded double-doubles. Scripko ended with 15 kills and matched a career high with 16 digs, to go along with five blocks. Nelson's Big South-best 12th double-double consisted of 13 kills and 13 digs.
Kallie Corbin (So., S, Beaverton, Ore.) notched her third-consecutive 50-assist match, totaling 55 assists on the afternoon. Webber added a team-high seven blocks, and Bartolomeo came up with a match-high 21 digs. The senior has now tallied three-straight 20-dig contests.
Sitzmann led Winthrop with a match-high 23 kills, hitting .477 in the process. Kelley Taylor added 17 kills on a .333 attack percentage. Setter Kelsey Hall contributed 63 assists and 12 digs.
Liberty will begin a season-long four-match homestand Friday at 7 p.m., when Big South foe Charleston Southern visits the Vines Center.