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Vikings Edge Lady Flames in Season-Opener
Despite stellar collegiate debuts by Lillie Happel and Erica Manor, the Liberty Lady Flames were edged by the Vikings of Cleveland State, 3-2 (25-22, 24-26, 21-25, 25-22, 15-11), Friday afternoon, in the season-opening match of 2010. The contest was the Lady Flames' first of three scheduled in the 2010 East Carolina Classic in Greenville, N.C.
The two squads played evenly in the first set, as the Lady Flames took a 21-19 lead when Karyl Bacon recorded one of her match-high 18 kills. But the Vikings went on a run, scoring six of the next seven points to claim the first set, 25-22.
Bacon and Manor each tallied five kills in the opening set, but Liberty was outhit by Cleveland State, .256 - .158, which turned out to be the key factor in the outcome.
The Lady Flames sparked in the second set behind Happel's five kills and Loren Thomas' .800 hitting percentage. With 18 ties and five lead changes, the set was neck-and-neck to the very end, when Jade Craycraft spiked the set-winning kill to seal the 26-24 win.
Liberty had 19 kills during the second set, compared to just 12 for the Vikings. The Lady Flames' .286 attack percentage was their highest of the entire match.
Behind a shining Manor, the Lady Flames recovered from a 19-15 deficit and claimed the third set, 25-21, to take a 2-1 lead in the match. Manor, a redshirt freshman right-side hitter, recorded two kills and three aces during the Lady Flames' set-clinching surge. In addition, Craycraft tallied 12 assists while directing Liberty's well-balanced attack.
The Lady Flames stayed hot early in the fourth set, jumping out to a 9-5 lead on a combined block by Bacon and Thomas. But the Vikings eased back in front with a timely kill by Jackie Dabbelt and several Liberty attack errors.
Liberty was able to get back in front briefly, when a Thomas kill gave the Lady Flames a 21-20 advantage, but Cleveland State came back with clutch kills of its own to claim the 25-22 fourth-set victory.
Dabbelt led all players with four kills in the fourth set, and the Vikings' defense came up with 24 digs to put a wrench in Liberty's momentum.
Cleveland State used its energy from the fourth set win to take an early 6-1 lead in the final set.
Despite coming within two points, at 12-10, on a Cleveland State ball handling error, the Lady Flames were unable to recover, and the Vikings walked away with a hard-fought win after a 15-11 fifth-set victory.
Dabbelt once again led all players with five kills in the final set, while Bacon and Happel each recorded three kills for Liberty.
As a team, the Vikings hit .321 in the fifth set, paced by Dabbelt's .714 attack percentage.
In addition to her 18 kills, Bacon wrapped up a double-double, as she also recorded 11 digs. Fellow outside hitter Happel also recorded a double-double, consisting of 12 kills and 14 digs. Manor led the squad in both attack percentage (.290) and aces (three), while contributing 14 total kills. Thomas made it four Lady Flames in double-digits with 10 kills of her own.
In addition, libero Kelly Haseman led the team with 22 digs, while Craycraft notched a match-high 50 assists in her first appearance in a Liberty uniform.
Dabbelt, a freshman, led the Vikings in both kills (17) and attack percentage (.389), while Amy Grabiec led all players with 26 digs.
With the win, 2009 Horizon League runner-up Cleveland State improves to 1-0 on the year, while the Lady Flames drop to 0-1.
Liberty will return to action tomorrow, facing Charlotte at 11 a.m.