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Liberty Blocks RU, 3-2, in Big South Opener
The Liberty volleyball team set a program rally-scoring record with 20.5 team blocks Friday, downing host Radford, 3-2 (19-25, 25-16, 25-17, 19-25, 15-11) at the Dedmon Center in the Big South opener.
Liberty (6-9, 1-0 Big South) won its conference-opening match for the seventh straight year, and has now defeated Radford (4-9, 0-1 Big South) 20 straight times.
The Lady Flames' 20.5 blocks broke the school rally-scoring record of 18, previously set twice. Loren Thomas set a Liberty record during the rally-scoring era with 12 block assists Friday, surpassing the previous mark of 11. Jade Craycraft added 10 block assists, and Melissa Racz totaled eight block assists. Friday was the first time since at least 2001 that two Liberty players posted 10 blocks in the same match.
The first three sets saw the victors lead from the first serve on. Radford stormed out to an 11-5 lead in set one, prompting a Liberty timeout. The Lady Flames chipped away at the deficit, with back-to-back kills by Erica Manor and a block from Manor and Racz drawing Liberty to within one, 18-17. The Highlanders pulled away from that point, as Savannah Cantrell sent down a pair of kills in RU's 7-2 closing run to a 25-19 set-one victory.
Liberty hit .000 during set one, while Radford attacked at a .067 rate.
The Lady Flames took control from the outset of set two, building a 6-1 lead. Radford pulled to within two, 10-8, but Craycraft earned two kills and assisted Thomas on a block to cap a 4-0 run to a 14-8 advantage. Liberty doubled Radford's score after 30 serves, and rolled to a 25-16 victory to tie the match.
During set two, Liberty hit .345, compared to .138 for Radford. Craycraft went 4-for-6 on the attack, while Emily Carlin posted five kills.
Liberty's size at the net proved the difference in set three, as the Lady Flames held RU to a negative hitting percentage while totaling 6.5 blocks. The visitors pulled away for a 16-10 lead with a 5-0 rally, taking advantage of Radford errors. Three out of the Lady Flames' final five points came via the block, with Racz factoring in on all three rejections.
The match's first lead change occurred during the fourth set. Radford overcame an early 8-5 deficit, staging a 7-0 rally to earn a 12-8 lead. Cantrell posted two block assists and Carly Fleming totaled three straight blocks during the rally. The Lady Flames got to within three by scoring on the next three Radford serves. Radford pulled away for the 25-19 win, setting up a decisive fifth set.
Liberty hit -.020 during set four, and Radford put up for team blocks. Happel posted five kills and six digs in the frame, while Carlin sent down four kills.
The Lady Flames took an 8-6 lead in set five on a kill by Manor, giving Liberty a two-point lead at the changeover. Ansley Gebben tallied a kill for a 10-7 Liberty advantage, but kills by Jesse Miedema and Carlin tied the set at 10-10. Thomas then sent down a resounding kill to regain an 11-10 edge for Liberty. Her kill sparked a 4-0 run, yielding four match-point opportunities. After a Radford sideout, Thomas and Craycraft ended the match with a combination block to seal the 3-2 win, 15-11.
During the final set, Liberty hit .238 and posted three team blocks, as Radford attacked at a .107 pace. Gebben, Happel and Thomas earned two kills each, and Carlin had four kills for Radford.
For the match, Thomas recorded 11 kills at a .346 pace, giving her the first double-double of her career. Craycraft led all players with 39 assists, and added seven kills to her 10 blocks. Courtney Cooper collected a career-high 21 digs.
Happel recorded a double-double with 11 kills and 12 digs and tied a career high with four block assists. Gebben totaled nine kills and 11 digs, while Gabrielle Shipe registered 10 digs. Manor posted four blocks, and Becca Haraf had nine digs.
Radford recorded 76 digs for the match, compared to 67 for Liberty. The Highlanders had three players in double-figures in digs, led by Rachel Brummitt's 30 digs. Carlin paced all players with 19 kills and added 10 digs. Emma Deininger recorded six block assists, and Rachel Wiechecki added 17 digs.
Liberty will open the home portion of its Big South schedule this coming weekend, playing host to UNC Asheville Friday at 7 p.m. before a 2 p.m. match Saturday against Gardner-Webb. Radford plays a mid-week match at N.C. Central Tuesday at 7 p.m. before contesting conference home matches versus Gardner-Webb and UNC Asheville on Friday and Saturday, respectively.