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Solid Defense Lifts Liberty Over JMU
The Liberty Lady Flames tied a season high with 75 digs and held the James Madison Dukes to just a .088 attack percentage en route to a 3-1 (25-16, 25-15, 13-25, 25-18) victory, Tuesday night, in the first home match of the season at the Vines Center.
The strong defensive effort was spearheaded by Kelly Haseman and Karyl Bacon, who each recorded season highs for digs (Haseman with 30, Bacon with 19).
The Lady Flames improve to 7-3, while the Dukes drop to 7-3 on the year, after seeing their four-match winning streak halted.
Additionally, the win marks Head Coach Shane Pinder's 111th career victory at the helm of the program, making him the second winningest volleyball coach in Liberty history. Pinder is 111-94 in his seventh season with the Lady Flames.
The opening set went back and forth as each team tried to find a groove, until the Lady Flames went on a 5-0 run, sparked by a Kendle Rollins kill, to take a 15-11 lead. Three kills by Loren Thomas helped the Lady Flames pull away, and Haseman notched a service ace on set point, giving Liberty the 25-16 first-set win.
Bacon and Thomas led all players in the first set with four kills apiece, while Jade Craycraft had nine assists and Haseman contributed seven digs.
The Lady Flames dominated the second set, leading almost the whole way before taking the 25-15 win. The highlight of the second set was a 13-0 Liberty run with Bacon at the service line for 12 of those points, giving the Lady Flames a commanding 19-8 advantage. Kills by Rollins and Erica Manor set up a set point, and Liberty closed it out when JMU's Lindsay Callahan committed a service error.
Thomas boasted a .750 hitting percentage in the second set, recording three kills and three blocks. Haseman added seven more digs, while Craycraft put up 10 helpers to help clinch set two.
The tables turned in the third set, as the Dukes found new life and jumped out to a 13-5 lead. The Lady Flames struggled to regain their momentum, committing several key errors that allowed James Madison to pull away, and the Dukes walked away with the 25-13 win to prolong the match.
JMU tallied a .333 attack percentage in the third set, compared to a .028 effort by Liberty. Callahan had seven kills and a .583 hitting percentage, while Bacon led the Lady Flames with three kills.
Freshman outside hitter Lillie Happel was at her best in the fourth set, and her five kills and two blocks helped give Liberty the lift it needed. Although the score stayed close at first, the Lady Flames managed to pull away for a 15-10 advantage, thanks in part to several JMU attack errors. Liberty never looked back, and on match point, Craycraft belted a service ace to seal the 3-1 victory for the Lady Flames.
Thomas had an impressive performance, putting up a .368 attack percentage and a match-high five blocks. Rollins was also strong, adding seven kills for a .385 hitting percentage.
In addition, Bacon had her seventh double-double of the season with her 11 kills and 19 digs.
Overall, the Dukes were paced by Callahan, who led all players with 18 kills on the night. Setter Megan Wiechmann led the team with 32 assists, while Natalie Abel had 21 digs.
The Lady Flames will depart Lynchburg early tomorrow morning bound for the West Coast, where they will compete in two different tournaments over the weekend.
First, Liberty will meet UC Irvine at the Asics Challenge in Irvine, Calif., Thursday night at 9 p.m. EST. Then, the Lady Flames will face off against West Virginia, Yale, Pennsylvania and Cal State Fullerton as part of the Fullerton Classic in Fullerton, Calif., Friday and Saturday.