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A Special Senior Night: Liberty Claims Share of Big South Regular-Season Volleyball Crown
Liberty's senior volleyball trio was treated to a memorable Senior Night, Saturday at the Vines Center, as the Lady Flames swept past Radford, 3-0 (30-20, 30-20, 30-16). Liberty's 14th-consecutive victory enabled the Lady Flames to claim a share of the 2007 Big South Conference regular-season title, the team's first since 2003. Liberty will open next week's Big South Volleyball Championship at the Vines Center as the No. 1 seed.
Additionally, a Big South-record 1,622 fans cheered Liberty on, as the Lady Flames boosted their record to 24-7 overall and 11-1 in Big South matches. The previous conference attendance mark was 1,583, set during Liberty's win over Winthrop on Oct. 27. Radford, which dropped its 13th-straight contest in its all-time head-to-head series with the Lady Flames, is 8-23 overall and 3-9 in Big South action. The Highlanders claimed the No. 5 seed in the Big South Volleyball Championship.
With graduating seniors Lara Bartolomeo (L/DS, Huntington Beach, Calif.), Mary Alice Pike (RS, Durham, N.C.) and Alysson Sanders (OH, Bear, Del.) all on the court to start the match, Liberty jumped out to a 7-4 lead. Fittingly, Pike and Sanders put down the Lady Flames' first two kills of the match. The visitors kept the score close, though, until a long serving run by Chelaine McCarty (So., MB, Houston, Ala.).
A solo block by McCarty put the Lady Flames on top, 16-13, and brought up her turn in the service rotation. Eight points later, Liberty had taken control of the opening game. Ashley Webber (Jr., MB, Lakeside, Calif.) paved the way for much of her position mate's serve, contributing two kills and two blocks.
McCarty later wrapped up a 30-20 Lady Flame decision with a kill. Jessica Nelson (R-Jr., OH, Tokyo, Japan) recorded a game-high five kills, while Webber finished with three of Liberty's five blocks during the stanza. The Highlanders' Lauren Clary led all players with six digs during game one.
Freshman Nicki Scripko (RS/OH, Fayetteville, N.C.) starred during the middle game, from start to finish. She provided Liberty's game-opening point with a kill and then kick-started the Lady Flames' game-ending burst. The pesky Radford unit had whittled a seven-point deficit down to two, 22-20, before Liberty scored the final eight points.
Nelson gave her team a side out with a kill, sending setter Kallie Corbin (So., Beaverton, Ore.) to the service line. She served out the game's last seven points, a run which opened with three-consecutive Scripko spikes and a block by Scripko and Webber. When all was said and done, Liberty headed into the locker room up 2-0, after sealing a 30-20 victory.
Scripko finished game two with eight kills, and her .583 hitting percentage pushed Liberty's team percentage up to .351 during the stanza. Jessica Sullivan hit .600 with a trio of kills for the visitors.
Sullivan and Lindsey Poole teamed up to give Radford an early 2-1 edge in the third game. Liberty responded with a prolonged 14-2 run, taking an 11-point lead in the process. Freshmen played a large role in the surge, as Karyl Bacon (OH/DS, Temecula, Calif.) had four kills and Scripko chipped in with three kills and two aces.
Liberty's seniors had gotten the Lady Flames started off on the right foot, and they closed out the match in style as well. Pike kills accounted for her squad's final three points of the evening, including one which closed out game three with a 30-16 Liberty victory.
Pike and Sanders combined for five kills during the last stanza, while Bartolomeo added six of Liberty's 20 digs. As a team, Liberty hit .419 for the game, overcoming Radford freshman Maggie Wagner's five kills and .625 hitting percentage.
Scripko finished as the lone Lady Flame in double figures in the kill category, putting down a match-high 14 kills and hitting a career-best .650. The rookie also served up two of Liberty's five aces and helped her team finish without a service error for the first time this season.
McCarty hit .421 with nine kills and three blocks, while Nelson tallied eight kills and a match-best 17 digs.
Webber added seven kills and had a hand in five of the Lady Flames' nine blocks. Corbin led all players with 42 assists, going over 1,400 for the season.
All three Liberty seniors made valuable contributions, with Bartolomeo totaling 14 digs, Pike hitting .556 with six kills and Sanders racking up four kills and four digs.
Wagner was the only Radford player in double figures, notching 10 kills. Sullivan finished at .389, with eight kills. Clary led the Highlanders with 13 digs on the evening.
The Lady Flames and Highlanders could see each other again at the Vines Center in less than a week. Radford will play its first match of the 2007 Big South Volleyball Championship Thursday at 7 p.m., versus No. 4 seed Coastal Carolina. The match's victor will move on to play Liberty in the semifinal round, Friday at 4:30 p.m.