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Liberty Sweeps Asheville in Big South Home Opener

September 30, 2011
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Freshman Ansley Gebben recorded the set-winning kill in each of the final two sets of Liberty's 3-0 sweep of UNC Asheville Friday at the Vines Center.
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Liberty downed visiting UNC Asheville, 3-0 (25-17, 25-23, 25-18), opening the conference home volleyball schedule Friday night in front of a season-high 1,260 fans at the Vines Center.

The Lady Flames (7-9, 2-0 Big South) posted their 11th straight home win on the strength of 46 kills, attacking at a .252 clip, while holding the Bulldogs (7-7, 1-1 Big South) to a .122 attack percentage.

Lady Flames sophomore Lillie Happel led all players with 12 kills and added 11 digs, while Jade Craycraft dished out 32 assists in addition to 12 digs. Both Happel and Craycraft have registered double-doubles in the each of the last three matches.

Loren Thomas registered five block assists, moving her into ninth place all-time at Liberty with 262 career blocks. In addition, she put down nine kills and hit a team-high .438 on the night.

Set one opened in back-and-forth fashion, producing an 11-11 deadlock midway through. Following a Happel kill, Craycraft earned consecutive kills on the way to a 14-11 Liberty lead. Melissa Racz sent down a kill for an 18-13 edge, leading to a Bulldogs timeout. Shipe later served for three straight points, including an ace, and the hosts led, 22-15. Craycraft sealed set one, 25-17, with her third kill of the set.

The Lady Flames hit .333 during set one, compared to .100 for the Bulldogs. Happel earned four kills and seven digs in the opening frame.

UNC Asheville built a quick 5-2 lead in the second set, as Cindi Miller tallied a pair of early kills. Liberty then surged into the lead with a 4-0 rally, and later built its advantage to six, 15-9, after back-to-back kills by Thomas and Happel. The Bulldogs chipped away at the deficit, and trailed by just two, 16-14, after a Miller ace capped a four-point surge by the visitors. Liberty responded, and held a 20-17 lead following a Happel kill.

The guests surged ahead at 22-20 with a 5-0 rally. A Gebben kill halted the rally, and Gabrielle Shipe tied the score at 22-all with an ace. Anna Moore scored a kill, but Liberty notched the final three points of the set. Gebben recorded a kill to clinch set two, 25-23, giving Liberty a 2-0 lead going into intermission.

Gebben and Happel both registered five second-set kills, helping the Lady Flames to 17 winners during the session. Shipe collected seven digs in set two, while Miller posted four kills for UNC Asheville.

Liberty gained control early in set three, receiving two kills from Racz and a triple block by Racz, Erica Manor and Gebben on the way to a 10-5 lead. The visitors bounced back to even the score at 10-10, benefitting from three Lady Flames errors in succession. Thomas scorched a kill to spark a 4-0 run which led to a 17-12 edge.
The Lady Flames led by six, 20-14, after a Racz kill, and Gebben put an exclamation point on the sweep with a kill for a 25-18 set three win.

Three Lady Flames posted three kills each during the third set, while Miller and Holly Shelton sent down four kills apiece for Asheville.

For the match, Liberty held a 60-43 advantage in digs, and posted 6.5 team blocks and seven aces.

Freshman Gabrielle Shipe, playing libero for the first time since the season-opening match at Georgia, fashioned a career-high 18 digs, and added two aces.

Shipe was one of three freshmen in the Liberty starting lineup, and her two fellow rookies performed well too. Gebben sent down eight kills, to go along with two aces and three block assists. Melissa Racz hit .375 with a career-high seven kills.

Meanwhile, Becca Haraf collected 10 digs for the Lady Flames, marking the fourth Liberty player to reach double figures.

Miller posted one-third of UNC Asheville's 30 kills on the evening, also recording eight digs. Alex Stewart had 13 digs, while Rachel Wells recorded 10 digs and Hallie Morse handed out 24 assists.

Liberty will conclude its conference home-opening weekend Saturday at 2 p.m., facing Gardner-Webb at the Vines Center. UNC Asheville travels to Radford, where the Bulldogs will take on the Highlanders Saturday at 4 p.m.