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Blocking, Serving Lead Lady Flames to Win
Backed by 10 blocks and 10 service aces, the Liberty Lady Flames cruised to a 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 25-13) conference win, Friday night at the Vines Center, defeating the visiting Blue Hose of Presbyterian College.
Outside hitter Lillie Happel played a key role in both categories, achieving a career-high five blocks, and tying a career-high with four aces.
With the win, the Lady Flames, currently No. 1 in Big South Conference standings, improve to 18-7 on the year, and move to 9-1 in conference play. Liberty has now won six straight matches, its longest streak of the season.
The Blue Hose drop to 10-13 overall and 3-6 in the Big South.
The first set was a dogfight, with Presbyterian College leading most of the way, but the Lady Flames enjoyed a surge at the end, winning five straight points to tie it up, 22-all. Hannah Anderson helped the cause with back-to-back aces to solidify the comeback, and a kill by Karyl Bacon at 23-23 gave Liberty a set point. The Lady Flames took the 25-23 win on the next play, when Allison Brown's spike sailed long.
The Lady Flames hit .211 in the opening set, and held the Blue Hose to a .125 attack percentage. Kendle Rollins led all players with five kills, followed by Bacon and Lillie Happel with four apiece. Presbyterian College's Amanda Kettles and Presley Mabrey notched three kills each.
The beginning of the second set was a lot like the first, but this time it was in Liberty's favor. The Lady Flames took an early 8-4 lead on a Rollins kill, but the Blue Hose stayed within range.
But Liberty turned it up a notch, pulling away for a 10-point lead at 22-12.
The Blue Hose kept fighting, but Liberty eventually went on to win the set, 25-18.
Bacon led the Liberty attack, posting five kills, while Loren Thomas hit .500 with three kills for the Lady Flames. Once again, it was Kettles and Mabrey who led the Blue Hose, contributing two kills each.
The third set wasn't pretty, as it was defined by a total of 15 attack errors: Presbyterian with nine and Liberty with six. But Liberty still kept control, keeping a small lead in the beginning, before pulling away. Part of the spark was thanks to three straight aces by Happel, and a kill by Thomas sealed the 25-13 third-set victory.
Thomas led all players with three kills in the final set, while Bacon and Happel posted two apiece. No Presbyterian College player put up more than one kill, and the Blue Hose were held to just a -.133 attack percentage.
Overall, Bacon paced all players with 11 kills, while Thomas hit .333 with seven successful spikes. Jade Craycraft contributed three kills and put up 29 assists, while Kelly Haseman added 19 digs for the Lady Flames.
Additionally, Rollins added seven kills, plus seven blocks for the third consecutive match, while Happel recorded eight kills. At the service line, Anderson added a trio of aces to compliment Happel's effort.
Kettles and Mabrey led the Blue Hose effort with six kills each, while setter Kilee Ruppe posted 19 helpers and 14 digs, leading her team in both categories.
Liberty's blocking game has been very successful in recent matches, as tonight marks the fourth consecutive contest that the Lady Flames have posted double digits in blocks.
Liberty will compete again tomorrow, hosting Gardner-Webb for a 2 p.m. matchup in the Vines Center.
Presbyterian College will continue its road trip, facing off against East Tennessee State in Johnson City, Tenn., at 2 p.m.