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Liberty Drops Close Match To So. Illinois
Liberty University looked to rebound after two tough losses on the first day of the Aztec Invitational, but was unable to pick up the victory in hard fought games against the Salukis of Southern Illinois, falling 3-0 (37-35, 30-23, 30-24) this afternoon at Peterson Gym.
The Salukis (1-2) and Lady Flames (0-3) battled back in forth during game one as a kill by Rachel Denton (Jr., Burnet, Texas) knotted the scored up at 12. Southern Illinois responded, going on a 6-2 run to give the Salukis some breathing room. However, Liberty fought back tearing off an 8-2 run of their own to take a 23-21 lead. After trading points, the Lady Flames had Southern Illinois at match point but were unable to close it out as the Salukis scored 10 out of the next 16 points to earn a game one victory, 37-35.
Game two was another tough match as Jessica Nelson (So., Tokyo, Japan) notched a kill off a Janell Migeot (Sr., Mission Viejo, Calif.) pass to tie things at seven. Southern Illinois then swirled off a 7-2 run capped off by a Haley Hann kill. The Lady Flames got to within one when a bad set by Kristy Elswick gave Liberty a point capping off an 8-4 run; however, that's as close as the Lady Flames would get, falling 30-23 in game two.
In game three Southern Illinois jumped out to a quick 7-1 lead on a kill from Hann, but the Lady Flames responded rattling of a 12-5 run and giving Liberty a 13-12 lead as Denton and Kendall Nichols (Fr., Hoover, Ala.) combined for a block. The Salukis scored 11 of the next 15 points and earned a 30-24 win, giving them a 3-0 victory.
"We played three close games and got a great effort from our players," remarked head coach Shane Pinder. "Our young players stepped up and made some big plays."
One of the young players coach talked about was Nichols who led the team in kills (12) and posted eight digs. Nelson and Autum Poorman (Jr., Mingoville, Pa.) had good hitting nights as they hit .375 and .364, respectively, while Lara Bartolomeo (So., Huntington Beach, Calif.) finished the night with 35 assists.
The Lady Flames will be back in action later this afternoon when they take on the Highlanders of UC Riverside at 5:30 p.m. (PDT) Liberty's final match of the Aztec Invitational from Peterson Gym.