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Liberty Battles North Carolina in 3-1 Setback
Liberty claimed a set from North Carolina of the ACC, as the Tar Heels downed the Lady Flames, 3-1 (25-19, 25-14, 28-30, 25-20), Saturday in Western Michigan's University Arena.
Saturday's match closed out the time at the Holiday Inn West Invitational for both Liberty (1-6) and North Carolina (4-1). The Lady Flames were the only team to take the Tar Heels past three sets during the event.
Liberty's Kelly Haseman totaled a season-high 20 digs, giving her 1,617 for her career. Haseman became the third player at Liberty, and ninth in Big South history, with 1,600 or more digs. Lillie Happel recorded a double-double with 17 kills and 12 digs, and UNC's Emily McGeee registered 17 kills and 18 digs. Happel was named to the all-tournament team, while McGee was tabbed tournament MVP.
North Carolina led 9-6 after 15 serves in set one. Liberty then responded with a 3-0 rally on kills by Melissa Racz and Ansley Gebben and a Gebben-Kendle Rollins block to tie it at 9-9. Four exchanges of serve ensued, prior to a three-point burst by North Carolina, and a Kayla Berringer kill led to a 14-11 UNC advantage and a timeout by Liberty. Lillie Happel nailed kills on each of the Tar Heels' next two serves, bringing Liberty to within two points at 15-13.
UNC extended the lead to five, 18-13, with three consecutive points. Loren Thomas ended a long rally with a kill, trimming the margin to four at 19-15. A pair of kills by Emily McGee and two Liberty miscues led to a 23-16 North Carolina edge, before the Tar Heels claimed set one and a 1-0 match lead, 25-19.
Liberty posted three blocks, including two solo blocks by Thomas, in set one. North Carolina hit .216 to .103 for Liberty. Chaniel Nelson led all players with five kills, while Haseman had six digs.
Set two began with UNC seizing momentum with a 5-0 burst. A kill from Nelson made the score, 6-2, Tar Heels. Liberty then rallied to knot the set at 9-9, receiving two kills from Racz and a pair of Lady Flames blocks. Four straight Tar Heel kills, including two by Nelson, fueled a 5-0 run for a 15-10 advantage, drawing a Liberty timeout.
Gebben stopped the scoring run with a kill, but UNC continued on the offensive, stretching its lead to double-digits, 22-11, on a 7-0 burst. In total, UNC ended the set with a 16-5 rally for a 25-14 win and a two-set lead.
The Tar Heels registered 19 set-two kills at a .571 pace, led by Berringer's 8-for-9 showing and Nelson's 5-for-5 performance. Happel posted three of Liberty's seven kills in the second set.
Liberty asserted itself at the net to open set three. Thomas posted two kills and a block assist and Gebben pushed the Lady Flames to an 8-7 edge with three winners. A 3-0 run, including an ace by Haraf and kills from Rollins and Craycraft, pushed the Liberty lead to 11-8. After Happel made it, 12-10, with a kill, the Tar Heels called a timeout. The Lady Flames matched North Carolina point for point through the next eight rallies, before a Liberty miscue tied set at 15 apiece.
A 3-0 Liberty run which featured two blocks by Happel and Rollins gave the Lady Flames an 18-15 edge. Liberty then powered to a 20-17 lead on consecutive Happel kills. Berringer sent down two kills to narrow the margin to one at 21-20, and a Lady Flames error knotted the set. After McGee sent UNC into the lead, 22-21, Gebben responded by earning a kill. A Tia Gaffen kill led to a Liberty timeout, and a Gaffen error sent UNC to the bench for a timeout of its own. McGee earned a North Carolina a match point chance with a kill, but Boggs responded with a kill of her own. Following seven rally points, a Haraf kill won set three for Liberty, 30-28.
Happel recorded six kills in set three, helping Liberty out-hit UNC, .286 to .224, while both teams earned 19 kills. McGee and Berringer had six kills apiece for UNC.
Liberty and North Carolina staged a closely-contested fourth set, with kills by Happel and Racz to keep the Lady Flames within two points at 8-6. McGee, Nelson and Berringer earned kills, as UNC built a 12-8 margin. The Lady Flames narrowed the gap to two points again at 12-10, and again at 13-11, with Thomas and Boggs winning points at the net. Liberty knotted the set, 13-13, on a kill by Happel.
The two teams exchanged serve for the next nine rallies, before a Kaylie Gibson ace sent UNC to a 19-17 lead. Craycraft sliced the Tar Heel margin to one, 19-18, scoring a point at the net. After exchanging points, Liberty still trailed by one, 20-19, before a Berringer kill and Ece Taner service ace gave North Carolina a two point gap, 22-19. Gaffen earned a match point opportunity at 24-19, but a Happel kill extended the set, before UNC wrapped up the match, 3-1, with a 25-20 set four win.
Liberty hit .213 during the match, led in efficiency by Melissa Racz, who had a season-high 6-for-9 match. Happel added a career-high-tying four block assists to her double-double. Haraf scored the first three service aces of her career. Gebben totaled nine kills, while Boggs led with 26 assists. Thomas posted four kills, and Rollins added three.
UNC connected on .316 of its attacks, and recorded 73 digs to 59 for Liberty. Berringer led four Tar Heels in double-figures in kills with 23, joined by McGee (17), Nelson (13) and Gaffen (11). Gibson collected a match-high 21 digs, and Erica Behm led North Carolina with 43 assists.
The Lady Flames return to Lynchburg, where they will play host to the Liberty Invitational presented by Pepsi Friday and Saturday, Sept. 9-10. North Carolina opens the home slate next weekend as well, competing in the Tar Heel Classic.