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Liberty Drops Conference Match to Winthrop
Despite a career-high 16 kills by Kendle Rollins, the Liberty Lady Flames struggled to find any momentum, dropping a 3-0 conference match to the Winthrop Eagles, Saturday afternoon, at the Winthrop Coliseum.
In addition, libero Kelly Haseman's 11 digs moved her into No. 5 on Liberty's single-season top five list, as she has now tallied 514 digs on the season. She also holds the No. 2 spot for her 2009 campaign, in which she recorded 560 digs during the season.
The loss cracks Liberty's eight-match winning streak, as the Lady Flames drop to 20-8 overall and 11-2 in the Big South. Liberty's only two conference losses have come to Winthrop this year.
With the win, the Eagles improve to 11-13 overall and 8-5 in conference play.
The Lady Flames still remain in sole possession of first place in the Big South standings.
After trading off the match's opening six points to tie it at 3-3, three straight Winthrop attack errors gave Liberty a 6-3 advantage. Loren Thomas extended that lead to 7-3 with a solid kill down the middle, prompting Winthrop to call the first timeout of the match.
Two kills by Karyl Bacon plus a kill and a service ace from Lillie Happel kept the Lady Flames rolling, 11-4.
The Eagles still put up a fight, keeping Liberty in their sights and winning seven straight points to come within three, 19-16. But the Lady Flames were able to maintain an edge, and a timely block from Jade Craycraft and Thomas moved the score to 22-19. A second block, this time from Hannah Anderson and Rollins, pushed it to 23-19, and a surprise kill by Craycraft gave Liberty a set point.
Winthrop shrugged off two set points on back-to-back kills by Stephanie Palmer, prompting Liberty Head Coach Shane Pinder to give the call for a timeout at 24-22.
The Lady Flames struggled to regain their composure, as the Eagles tied it up, 24-all. After an attack error by Happel, the Eagles earned a set point of their own, but Rollins came up with a kill to tie it up, 25-25.
Winthrop then closed it out, 28-26, after a kill by Kellie Sellers and a Bacon attack error.
Rollins led all players in the opening set with six kills, while Kaley Viola paced Winthrop with four kills. The Eagles hit .211, and held Liberty to .143. Also, Anderson notched her first solo block of the season.
Winthrop stayed hot as the second frame began, keeping Liberty off-balance and moving to an 8-4 lead.
But less than a minute later, the Lady Flames had come with one point at 9-8, thanks to kills by Bacon and Thomas and an attack error by Viola.
The Eagles were able to find another groove, and went ahead 16-12 behind kills by Sara Felts and Becca Toor, plus a few Liberty mishaps.
Liberty didn't give up, and clawed its way back to 16-14 on a block by Bacon and Thomas followed by a Happel service ace.
From there, the Lady Flames stayed within reach, but the Eagles refused to surrender the lead, going on to take set two, 25-18.
The Lady Flames, led by Rollins with six more kills, were held to just a .026 attack percentage in the second set. Toor led the Winthrop attack with four kills, and the Eagles posted three team blocks compared to Liberty's one.
The third set saw Winthrop take an early advantage, but the Lady Flames found their footing and kept the match at a one-point margin until the Eagles broke away, 14-10, after two aces by Kristin Cruse and a Liberty attack error.
But the Lady Flames fought back to 16-15 behind a few Winthrop errors and key kills by Rollins and Bacon.
From there, the set was even, as Liberty eventually tied it up, 17-all, on a block by Rollins and Craycraft. Liberty then took its first lead of the set, 18-17, when Rollins and Craycraft jumped for their second straight block.
But Winthrop continued on, finding an answer for nearly everything the Lady Flames could muster, and sealed the 25-20 victory on a block by Carolyn Weed and Toor, closing out the match.
The loss marked the first time Liberty has dropped a 3-0 decision to a Big South opponent since Oct. 26, 2006, when the Lady Flames were swept by Charleston Southern on the road.
Rollins and Bacon each posted four kills in the final set, while Viola, Weed and Felts each notched three for the Eagles.
Rollins led all players in the match with her 16 kills, while Bacon added 10 for the Lady Flames.
Toor paced the Eagles' attack with 10 kills, followed by Felts with seven.
Craycraft tallied 34 assists for Liberty, while Kelsey Hall notched 36.
Both teams are on the road for upcoming matches, as Winthrop will travel to UNC Asheville on Friday at 7 p.m., and the Lady Flames will take on Coastal Carolina next Saturday in Conway, S.C., at 2 p.m.