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Liberty Sweeps Coastal Carolina to Advance to Big South Volleyball Championship Match
Big South Freshman of the Year Nicki Scripko (RS/OH, Fayetteville, N.C.) got Liberty started with a kill on the evening's first point and went on to pace all players with 15 kills and a .522 hitting percentage.
Scripko helped the Lady Flames win their 15th-consecutive match overall and their 10th-straight tilt at the Vines Center. Liberty, now 25-7 on the season, will meet No. 2 Winthrop in the Big South Championship match, Saturday at 4 p.m. The Eagles (19-10) advanced to the title tilt with a 3-1 win over No. 6 UNC Asheville in Friday's first match.
Coastal Carolina saw its season halted at 15-17, after reaching the Big South semis for the sixth-consecutive year.
Liberty, which had not played a match since Saturday, came out strong in the opening game, reeling off five-straight points to start the contest. The Lady Flames never trailed during the stanza, and Ashley Webber (Jr., MB, Lakeside, Calif.) sealed a 30-16 decision with a kill.
Scripko hit .714 with a game-high five kills in the opening stanza, while setter Kallie Corbin (So., Beaverton, Ore.) came up with six digs. The Lady Flames also took advantage of 14 Coastal Carolina attack errors, limiting the Chanticleers to a -.114 hitting percentage.
Led by two Big South All-Freshman team members of its own, Coastal Carolina led for most of the second game. Megan Bickford and Chelsy Kimes combined for 10 kills for the Chanticleers during the game, and a Bickford kill gave Coastal Carolina its largest advantage, 19-14.
Liberty battled back, but still trailed by a 26-23 margin after the Chanticleers' Jill Nyhof put down a kill. Chelaine McCarty (So., MB, Houston, Ala.) and Alysson Sanders (R-Jr., OH, Bear, Del.) then helped the Lady Flames pull out a narrow win. Liberty closed out a 30-28 victory with a 7-2 burst, which included two kills apiece by McCarty and Sanders. Jessica Nelson's (R-Jr., OH, Tokyo, Japan) spike ended the stanza.
Webber hit .375 with five kills for Liberty during the second game, and was vital to keeping the Lady Flames within striking distance early on. Nelson added five kills and five digs of her own, enabling Liberty to take a 2-0 lead into the intermission.
A kill by Corbin lifted the homestanding Lady Flames to an 18-12 edge, midway through game three. The Chanticleers, trying to prolong their 2007 season, fought back and trimmed the deficit to a single point on three separate occasions, the last of which came at 23-22.
Liberty was able to close out the match, in part due to another run of stellar play by McCarty. The middle blocker recorded a kill and an ace to boost Liberty's lead, before Nelson's ace wrapped up a 30-26 win and gained a measure of revenge for the Lady Flames. Last season, Coastal Carolina ended Liberty's season with a 3-1 win in an opening-round Big South Volleyball Championship match at the Vines Center.
Scripko finished out the contest in the same manner she started it, contributing six kills on a .500 attack percentage during game three. Nelson sparked Liberty's defense with 10 digs during the final game.
McCarty joined Scripko in double figures for Liberty, tallying 10 kills and adding a pair of aces. She hit .320 and has now gone over the .300 mark in 18 of the Lady Flames' last 19 matches.
Corbin posted a match-best 38 assists and tacked on a dozen digs. Nelson led all players with 19 digs, while senior Lara Bartolomeo (L/DS, Huntington Beach, Calif.) tracked down 10 digs. Webber hit .278 with eight kills and shared the team lead with a trio of blocks.
Bickford and Kimes paced Coastal Carolina's attack, with 11 kills each. Bickford hit a team-high .391 in the process. Setter Meagan Tracey enjoyed a nice all-around performance, coming up with 31 assists, eight digs and a match-best six blocks. In total, the Chanticleers outblocked the Lady Flames, 10-6.
Liberty will now appear in its seventh Big South Volleyball Championship match. The Lady Flames are 3-3 all-time in the championship contest, winning conference crowns in 1997, 1999 and 2001. Meanwhile, Winthrop will play its sixth-straight Big South Championship contest. The Eagles have won five-consecutive conference championships.
Liberty and Winthrop split the head-to-head season series. The Eagles took a 3-1 decision at home on Sept. 29, which marked Liberty's most recent setback. The Lady Flames answered with a 3-0 triumph at the Vines Center on Oct. 27, a result which halted Winthrop's 63-match Big South winning skein.
Liberty Coach Shane Pinder
"We played exceptionally well in game one. It's tough to keep the intensity going in game two when you do that, but our kids played unbelievable defense to come from behind late in the game. We might not have played our best match, but a win is a win. I'm proud of our players and our senior leadership and the way they came through tonight. We're really excited about tomorrow."
Coastal Carolina Coach Kristen Bauer
"Liberty is an impressive team to watch. The ladies who got awards deserved them and shined, despite the fact we were keying on them. All year long, I thought Liberty was the toughest team in the league. They proved it tonight."