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Liberty's Streak Continues, High Point's Run Comes to an End
The sweep makes the Lady Flames the first Big South team to post nine-consecutive 3-0 sweeps since Radford did so in 2001. It also marks the squad's sixth-straight win at the Vines Center.
Liberty improves to 19-7 overall and 8-1 in the Big South conference, setting up a Saturday evening showdown with Winthrop. The Eagles, who handed the Lady Flames their only conference setback and have won 63-straight matches against conference foes, top the Big South at 8-0.
High Point, which had not lost since dropping a 3-1 home decision to Liberty on Sept. 28, was at least temporarily denied its first 20-win season since 1996. The Panthers are now 19-7 overall and sit third in the conference standings at 5-3.
Game one opened as many expected it would, a back-and-forth struggle between two of the conference's hottest teams. The score was tied 10 times during the first half of the game, and the lead changed hands three times. The visiting Panthers were the first team to 15, necessitating a media timeout after Lindsay Raus' kill made it 15-14.
Liberty looked like a new team after emerging from the break and reeled off 10-straight points, largely due to the play of its middle blockers. Chelaine McCarty (So., MB, Houston, Ala.) served for nine of the points, and Ashley Webber (Jr., MB, Lakeside, Calif.) put down three kills and provided a block assist during the extended surge. Webber's final kill of the run put the Lady Flames on top by a 24-15 count.
The home team went on to claim game one, 30-19, closing the stanza on Nicki Scripko's (Fr., RS/OH, Fayetteville, N.C.) game-high eighth kill. Not only did the reigning Big South Freshman of the Week aid in Liberty's fast start, but Big South Player of the Week Kallie Corbin (So., S, Beaverton, Ore.) hit 1.000 with three kills, 20 assists and five digs. Webber chipped in at .714, notching five kills and contributing to the Lady Flames' .431 team attack percentage.
Raus and Audie Gonzalez posted four kills apiece for the visitors during game one, sparking the High Point attack, which had only two attack errors. Tara Dyer added seven digs from the back row.
The Lady Flames stormed out of the gate in game two, once again utilizing the aggressive and effective serving of McCarty. The sophomore served up an ace on her opening serve of the game. Jessica Nelson (R-Jr., OH, Tokyo, Japan) then tallied a solo block and a kill, consecutively, to extend the home team's edge to 4-0. High Point never got closer than three points the rest of the game.
Scripko removed all doubt with a five-point serving run late in the game, which included a trio of aces. Nelson then ended the 30-15 Liberty triumph with a kill, which was her team-best sixth of the stanza. The redshirt junior hit .667 in the game, but was just one of five Lady Flames to hit .500 or higher, as Liberty recorded a .567 team attack percentage for game two.
Liberty also served for five aces to zero for High Point and totaled five blocks to the Panthers' one during the game. Stephanie Wallin paced the Panthers with an .800 attack percentage and a team-high four kills.
High Point was determined not to see its winning streak halted, and built a 14-10 lead in the third game, after a 6-2 burst. The Panthers took a 15-12 edge into the media timeout, before momentum swung in Liberty's favor once again at the game's midpoint.
The Lady Flames scored seven of the first eight markers after the timeout, a run led by Scripko. The freshman recorded three kills, an assist and a block assist during the surge, which put Liberty on top by a 19-16 margin.
High Point bounced back to even the score at 21 apiece, but Nelson's kill on the ensuing point gave Liberty the lead for good. The Lady Flames went on to claim a 30-24 decision and continue their streak at 27-consecutive games won. Scripko paced all players with six kills during the game, while Ashley Mellott followed closely with five for High Point.
A number of stats were telling in Liberty's triumph. In addition to the team's solid .353 attack percentage for the evening, the Lady Flames defeated the Panthers by convincing margins in aces (8-0), blocks (10-3) and digs (63-53). Liberty has not yielded a service ace in its last two matches and was able to outdig a squad which entered Friday's match ranked No. 7 in the nation in the category.
Scripko, who posted a career-best 19 kills versus High Point in the teams' first meeting, hit .448 and led all players in both kills (16) and digs (15) Friday, while also tallying a career-high three aces. Nelson joined the freshman with a double-double of her own, coming up with 11 kills, 13 digs and three blocks.
Corbin hit .556 with five kills, 50 assists and 14 digs, notching a double-double as well. Lara Bartolomeo (Sr., L/DS, Huntington Beach, Calif.) moved up a spot on Liberty's all-time digs list with her 13 digs on Friday. The senior now has 1,480 career digs, one more than Erin McKeown for fourth on the school's all-time list.
McCarty and Webber also played well for Liberty against the Panthers. McCarty had a .346 attack percentage, to go along with a dozen kills, three aces and three blocks. Webber hit a match-best .750, recording nine kills and a trio of blocks.
Raus and Mellott ended with 10 kills apiece for the visitors, and Raus also had a hand in all three of her team's blocks. Freshman libero Julie Hershkowitz led three Panthers in double figures with her 14 digs, while setter Kristina Taylor distributed 37 assists.
Liberty will square off with Winthrop at 7 p.m. Saturday evening at the Vines Center, to close the Lady Flames' Parents' Weekend festivities. Meanwhile, High Point will travel to Radford for a 4 p.m. match against the Highlanders, who extended Winthrop to five games on Friday.