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Happel Ties Career High as Liberty Wins
Freshman Lillie Happel tied a career-high 15 kills in a battle of the Big South Conference unbeatens, Tuesday night at the Millis Center, as the Liberty Lady Flames swept the Panthers of High Point, 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 27-25).
The win marks Liberty's third victory in a row, and snaps High Point's four-match winning streak.
With the win, Liberty improves to 12-6 overall and 3-0 in Big South Conference play, while High Point drops to 7-10 overall and 2-1 in the conference.
A highlight was the fact that Liberty libero Kelly Haseman recorded twice as many digs as High Point libero Julie Hershkowitz, who recently became the third Big South player to record over 2,000 career digs. Haseman recorded 22 digs, while Hershkowitz posted 11.
In addition, Liberty held High Point to just a .179 attack percentage, while posting a .273 hitting percentage of its own.
The Panthers jumped out to a quick 3-0 advantage due to two Liberty attack errors and a kill by Audie Gonzalez. But Happel put a stop to that streak, as her first kill put the Lady Flames on the board, 3-1.
High Point continued leading until a surprise kill by setter Jade Craycraft tied it up, 6-all. The set then went back and forth from being tied, to the Panthers being ahead, and back again.
Then, with Happel at the service line, an ace gave the Lady Flames their first lead of the match, 13-12.
After a stellar block by Craycraft and Loren Thomas, an Erica Manor kill provided Liberty a two-point lead, prompting the Panthers to call a timeout with the score at 18-15 in favor of the Lady Flames.
Liberty kept its momentum, as did Happel, as she jumped up for a right-side kill to put the Lady Flames up by four.
The Panthers didn't let up, winning three straight points to make it a one-point match once again, 19-18.
After a block by Kendle Rollins and Craycraft, partnered with a kill by Karyl Bacon, Liberty moved ahead, 23-19. But High Point took the next three points for a 23-22 score.
A diving save on the next point by Craycraft set up the Lady Flames' first set point, but it was saved by a Gonzalez kill. Bacon stepped up big on the next point, spiking a ball down the middle that Gonzalez couldn't handle, sealing the 25-23 set one win for Liberty.
Happel paced Liberty with six kills in the opening stanza, hitting .333, while Gonzalez led the Panthers with the same numbers as Happel.
The second set was toe-to-toe, as the teams went back and forth in points, until Thomas tapped an off-speed ball over the front row that found the floor, giving Liberty a 6-4 lead.
Two points later, a long rally with big saves from each team ended with a swinging spike by Craycraft for a 7-5 score.
After a Bacon ball went through two diving High Point defenders, Happel sent a kill down the left-side line to give the Lady Flames their biggest lead of the set so far, 11-8.
Liberty then went on a 6-0 run for a 16-10 advantage, until High Point stopped that run with a kill by Megan Smith. But Bacon put Liberty back on track with an untouched kill near the back line.
The Panthers kept chugging along, coming to within two points at 17-15 and prompting Liberty Head Coach Shane Pinder to call a timeout.
The set stayed close until Liberty pulled away when a deep kill by Erica Manor, followed by another Happel kill, gave the Lady Flames a 23-18 advantage. The Panthers were able to shrug off two set points before another Happel kill gave Liberty the 25-20 victory.
Bacon and Happel both notched six kills and hit over .400 for the set, while Thomas was 3-for-4 in attacks. Smith led the Panthers in the second set, recording four kills.
The third set went back and forth early, until Liberty pulled away, winning four straight points for a 7-3 advantage. That run was highlighted by two Bacon kills and a block by Thomas and Craycraft.
The Panthers broke that streak with a lucky kill by Courtney Johnk that landed in the back corner of the court. But Bacon continued hitting the lines, and another kill by the senior outside hitter that landed on the back line put Liberty ahead, 11-4.
High Point came back with eight straight points to take a 12-11 lead, and the Lady Flames struggled to regroup.
Bacon and Manor stepped up with timely kills to keep Liberty in it, tying the set at 14-all.
Liberty tried to regain its momentum, scoring three straight points for an 18-17 mark.
The Lady Flames continued to fight, tying it up at 20-all after a long rally. The two squads traded points after that, until a huge kill down the middle by Manor set up match point, 24-23. But the Panthers saved it with a Smith kill, tying it up again.
High Point then set up their own set point, which Liberty saved on another Bacon kill to knot it up, 25-all.
The Lady Flames then made impressive defensive plays to win the next point, and Bacon stepped up with the match-winning kill for the 27-25 third-set win.
Bacon was the only player to record double-digits in kills in the final set (10), while Smith led the home team with six kills.
Overall, Bacon led all players with 19 kills, followed by Happel's 15. Thomas added seven kills, while Manor contributed five.
Gonzalez and Smith led the Panthers, each recording 12 kills.
In the battle of the freshman setters, Craycraft came out on top with 38 assists, while current Big South Freshman of the Week Maddie Simpson put up 36 helpers for the Panthers.
Liberty libero Haseman led all players with 22 digs, and Bacon completed her double-double with 11 digs.
The Lady Flames will continue conference play this weekend, hosting Winthrop and Charleston Southern at the Vines Center on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The match against Winthrop is set for a 7 p.m. start Friday evening. The Panthers next will host UNC Asheville at 4 p.m. on Saturday.