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Lady Flames Take Down Winthrop's 63-Match Win Streak Before Record Crowd
The Lady Flames improve to 20-7 overall and take over first place in the Big South standings by one-half game, with a 9-1 conference ledger. Liberty, which won for the first time in its last nine tries versus Winthrop, has won 20 matches for the first time since 2003. The Lady Flames also completed a perfect month of October, which saw them win 10-straight matches and 30-straight games.
Meanwhile, the Eagles leave town at 14-10 overall and 8-1 in conference action. Winthrop had brought a 12-match winning streak into Saturday's match and had been on the longest active conference winning streak in the nation.
The match's tone was set during a hotly contested opening game, which saw a total of 13 ties and six lead changes. Liberty energized the crowd at the outset, jumping out to a 3-0 lead after freshman Nicki Scripko (RS/OH, Fayetteville, N.C.) contributed a block assist and a kill.
Winthrop bounced back and later took its largest lead of the stanza, 20-16, after a Kelley Taylor kill capped a 7-1 spurt by the visitors. Tara Toepke notched a pair of kills during the run.
A service ace by Kallie Corbin (So., S, Beaverton, Ore.) knotted the score at 24 apiece. After a Kellie Sellers kill briefly gave Winthrop the advantage, Liberty fashioned a 5-2 surge, featuring two Karyl Bacon (Fr., OH/DS, Temecula, Calif.) kills. The burst gave the Lady Flames their first two game points, at 29-27.
Winthrop quickly rebounded to claim a game point of its own, at 31-30. However, Liberty finished the game with three-consecutive points, coming via a Chelaine McCarty (So., MB, Houston, Ala.) kill, a Corbin kill and a Winthrop ball-handling error. Game one's final score was 33-31, Liberty.
Both teams recorded 32 digs during the opening game, highlighted by libero Pohai Nu'uhiwa's 13 digs for Winthrop. Despite Bacon's six kills and .333 attack percentage, Liberty hit just .145 in the stanza. Liberty was aided by five blocks, though, including four apiece by Scripko and Ashley Webber (Jr., MB, Lakeside, Calif.).
In game two, it was Winthrop which came out firing. Taylor had a kill and a block assist to kick start a 3-0 Eagles game-opening burst. The Winthrop advantage stood at 7-4, before Liberty swung momentum and the game into its favor.
The Lady Flames recorded eight of the next 10 points to take the lead for good, 12-9. McCarty ignited the run with two block assists and a kill. Liberty never trailed again in the middle game, and went into the intermission with a 2-0 lead, after Scripko slammed down a Winthrop overpass to finish a 30-21 triumph.
Winthrop's Shannon Sitzmann, the Preseason Big South Player of the Year, led all players with five kills in the game. Meanwhile, three Lady Flames (Bacon, Scripko and Jessica Nelson (R-Jr., OH, Tokyo, Japan)) had four kills apiece, and helped Liberty outhit the visitors, .275-.083.
Aided by Toepke's powerful, bending serves, Winthrop found itself on top early on in game three. Toepke served for a pair of aces, lifting her team to a 7-5 edge. The Eagles were on top by a 14-12 count, when Scripko opened a 4-0 Liberty burst with a kill. Another kill by McCarty closed the quick run and gave coach Shane Pinder's side a 16-14 lead it did not relinquish.
Scripko, the three-time reigning Big South Freshman of the Week, had been held in check by the Winthrop defense for most of the evening, before coming to life in game three. She hit .700 with seven kills, including one on the final point of Liberty's 30-21 decision, which incited a wild celebration.
McCarty added five kills during the third game and assisted the Lady Flames in recording a match-high .378 attack percentage. Meanwhile, the Winthrop hitting percentage slipped to .061.
Scripko not only ended the match with her kill, but she had gotten things started by singing the national anthem for the second-straight evening, to help celebrate Parents' Weekend. The freshman totaled a team-high 14 kills, 11 digs and six blocks, recording her 11th double-double.
Fellow freshman Bacon played one of her best matches of the season, recording her highest attack percentage (.423) since the year's opening contest against Howard and posting her most digs (16) in a month. Bacon added a dozen kills for the Lady Flames.
McCarty aided the Liberty offense with a .421 attack percentage and nine kills, while Webber's six blocks slowed down Winthrop's powerful offense.
Corbin, the Big South Player of the Week, chipped in with five kills, 40 assists, seven digs and matched a season high with four block assists. Nelson and Lara Bartolomeo (Sr., L/DS, Huntington Beach, Calif.) helped the Lady Flames claim a slim, 68-67 advantage in digs for the match with 16 and 13 digs, respectively.
Sitzmann starred for Winthrop, tallying 14 kills and four blocks. Taylor added 12 kills, while Nu'uhiwa paced all players with 23 digs. Hall totaled a match-best 41 assists for the Eagles.
Liberty will begin its final road jaunt prior to the Big South Championship Friday, with a match at future Big South member Presbyterian. The Blue Hose are 18-11 and have won three-consecutive matches. The Lady Flames recorded a 3-0 sweep in the teams' first-ever meeting, Oct. 12 at the Vines Center.