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LU Clinches Share of BSC Regular-Season Crown
For the fourth straight year, the Liberty Lady Flames have clinched at least a share of the Big South regular-season title, as they defeated the Radford Highlanders, 3-1 (18-25, 25-19, 25-13, 27-25), Tuesday night, at the Dedmon Center.
Freshman outside hitter Lillie Happel sparkled for the visitors, posting a career-high 19 kills in the victory.
With the win, the Lady Flames improve to 22-8 overall and 13-2 in conference play, with one regular-season match remaining.
In addition, libero Kelly Haseman broke her own single-season record wih 566 digs, as she posted 560 in 2009.
Radford drops to 10-20 overall and 4-11 in the Big South.
The Highlanders took control in the first set, holding Liberty back and jumping to a 12-7 lead. The Lady Flames struggled to find a groove, and behind key kills by Laura Wadell combined with several Liberty miscues, Radford extended the score to 19-11. The Highlanders kept rolling, and clinched the first set, 25-18.
Wadell, Carly Fleming and Megan McWhorter each tallied four kills for Radford, while Happel paced the Lady Flames with five kills during set one.
The second frame was more evenly matched at the beginning, as the two teams traded points for many tie scores. The Lady Flames then took a three-point advantage, 12-9, on a solid kill down the middle by Kendle Rollins. But the Highlanders came right back, winning three straight points to tie it up again.
Liberty was able to immediately regain a three-point lead, 15-12, thanks to two Radford errors and a kill by Hannah Anderson. The Lady Flames never trailed again, and claimed the second set, 25-19, when Katelyn Meeks' serve dropped into the net.
Liberty's offense was much more solid in the second set, as the visitors posted a .375 attack percentage. Happel and Rollins each tallied four kills, while Waddell, McWhorter and Jesse Miedema contributed three kills each for the home team.
With the match tied at one set apiece, the third frame began with four service errors in the first six points, two for each team. Two straight Radford attack errors set up a 7-3 Liberty advantage, prompting Radford Head Coach Marci Jenkins to call a timeout.
The Lady Flames finally found their momentum, winning five out of the next six points for a 12-4 lead.
Liberty kept finding the floor thanks to kills from Happel, Rollins, Bacon and Thomas, and two blocks helped the team find a commanding 10-point lead at 23-13. The Lady Flames then clinched the 25-13 third-set win on a Thomas kill.
Happel led all players with five kills, while Bacon added three for the Lady Flames. Radford was paced by Waddell, who hit .200 with three kills.
The fourth set went back and forth in the beginning, until Radford won four straight points to take a 9-6 lead on consecutive kills by Yacine Meyer and Fleming. But the Lady Flames held on, marching back to tie it up, 12-all, on a Rollins kill.
The Highlanders refused to lie down, and went on a 6-2 run to go ahead 18-14, and Shane Pinder called a timeout for Liberty.
That timeout sparked the Lady Flames, as they won three straight points to get right back in the match, with a kill by bacon, a Thomas-Erica Manor block and a Rollins service ace, putting the score at 18-17.
At 20-all, Thomas and Bacon posted back-to-back kills, but Radford responded with a block. The match was a nail-biter to the end, and at 24-22 Liberty, Bacon's attack sailed long. Happel then committed an attack error to tie it up, but recorded a kill on the next play to set up another match point. Meyer then pushed a spike out of bounds to give Liberty the 27-25 win.
Happel led Liberty with five kills in the final set, while Thomas posted two blocks. Meyer led the Highlander attack with five kills.
Overall, Happel's career-high 19 kills led all players, while Bacon had 11 kills and Rollins hit .381 with 10 kills. Waddell was the Radford leader with 12 kills.
Craycraft was the leader in assists (44), and Haseman was the match leader with 27 digs.
The Lady Flames will host their final regular-season match this weekend, welcoming UNC Asheville to the Vines Center for Senior Day, Saturday at 2 p.m.
Radford will next host Coastal Carolina on Friday night at 7 p.m.