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Birthday Girl Nelson Leads Lady Flames to 3-0 Triumph Over UNC Asheville
The Lady Flames, who hit .320 as a team against the Bulldogs, are now 14-7 overall and 5-1 in the Big South Conference. Liberty owns sole possession of second place in the conference standings, one match behind 6-0 Winthrop. Meanwhile, UNC Asheville falls to 6-17 overall and 0-6 in conference action. The Bulldogs have lost their last nine matches in succession.
Head coach Shane Pinder's Lady Flames, who have won four in a row and six out of their last seven tilts, are in the midst of their longest winning streak since a five-match winning skein in October 2004. Additionally, Liberty has swept four-consecutive opponents by 3-0 scores for the first time since November 1999.
The match did not appear to be headed for a 3-0 Liberty victory throughout much of the opening game. The score was tied 14 times and the lead changed hands on five occasions. A 5-1 UNC Asheville scoring burst, spearheaded by the serving of freshman Rachel Guinane and featuring two kills by classmate Kelsey Benorden, posted the Bulldogs to a 19-15 edge.
The Bulldog lead was 20-16 when Pinder called a timeout to regroup the Lady Flames. Whatever he said in the huddle proved to be effective, as Liberty ran off six-straight points, retaking the advantage for good. Lady Flame freshman Nicki Scripko (RS/OH, Fayetteville, N.C.) provided a block assist and two kills during the surge. Her kills tied the score and gave Liberty a 21-20 lead.
Nelson (OH, Tokyo, Japan) put the finishing touches on Liberty's 30-24 game one victory with a kill, one of five for her in the opening stanza. Chelaine McCarty (So., MB, Houston, Ala.) paced all players with seven kills during the first game, while Karyl Bacon (Fr., OH/DS, Temecula, Calif.) and UNC Asheville's Brooke Holliday posted seven digs apiece.
Liberty took control of game two from the get-go, as McCarty served for the stanza's first five points. A pair of Nelson kills helped Liberty get started, and Kallie Corbin's (So., S, Beaverton, Ore.) keep the momentum going. The sophomore served for 12 points during game two, four of which came on service aces. The final eight markers of Liberty's 30-11 victory came on Corbin's serve.
Scripko headed the Liberty attack during the middle game, hitting .500 with six kills. Her efforts helped the Lady Flames hit over .300 for the second-straight game. Meanwhile, Liberty limited UNC Asheville to a -.056 attack percentage during the stanza.
Game three was tightly contested early on. In fact, the two squads were knotted up, 5-5, before a 7-0 Liberty run. Alysson Sanders (R-Jr., OH, Bear, Del.) initiated the burst with a kill and then served up the next six points in a row. From that point, the Lady Flames cruised to a 30-10 win.
Sanders hit a perfect 1.000 during game three, recording kills on all four of her swings. For the game, Liberty notched its highest hitting percentage of the afternoon, .353.
In addition to Nelson's 12 kills, she added six digs and a team-high three blocks. Scripko joined Nelson in double figures, tallying 11 kills and hitting .474. Scripko, who hit .478 for the four-match homestand, completed her seventh career double-double with 14 digs.
Bacon and Lara Bartolomeo (Sr., L/DS, Huntington Beach, Calif.) also starred defensively for Liberty, contributing 15 and 10 digs, respectively. Bartolomeo has now recorded 20-straight matches of 10 digs or more. The duo also helped prevent UNC Asheville from posting a single ace on the afternoon. For the four-match homestand, Liberty opponents totaled only three service aces.
A pair of veterans came off Pinder's bench to record 1.000 attack percentages for the afternoon. Sanders went five-for-five with her attacks, and Mary Alice Pike (Sr., RS, Durham, N.C.) was a perfect two-for-two in the third game. Sanders is now 11-for-13 in attacks in the last two matches, good for an .846 hitting percentage.
Corbin served for a team season-high five aces, to complement 43 assists and six digs. McCarty added two aces of her own, and also hit .421 with nine kills.
Benorden and Alysha Greer sparked UNC Asheville with seven kills apiece. Libero Raquel Miotto totaled nine digs and Heather Burns posted three block assists for the visitors.
Liberty will be on the road for its next three matches, beginning with a trip to East Tennessee State (14-10, 5-2 Atlantic Sun) for a non-conference contest, tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. The Lady Flames will aim to snap the Buccaneers' 14-match home winning streak at Brooks Gym.