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Liberty Wins Five-Set Match Over Gardner-Webb
Liberty ran its Big South record to 3-0 with a 3-2, five-set win (27-29, 25-17, 26-24, 13-25, 15-6) over Gardner-Webb Saturday at the Vines Center.
Liberty improves its overall record to 8-9, including a 3-0 conference mark that moves the Lady Flames into a first-place tie with Winthrop. Gardner-Webb falls to 4-13 with a 0-3 Big South record.
The Lady Flames are currently riding a 12-match home winning streak, dating back to Oct. 2, 2010.
Liberty sophomore Lillie Happel sent down 22 kills at a .426 clip and added 13 digs, while also surpassing the 500-career kill mark for her career. Happel earned a double-double for the fourth straight match.
Eighth-year head coach Shane Pinder has now recorded 75 Big South victories, against just 30 conference defeats.
Gardner-Webb hit .252 for the match, with 58 kills, while Liberty hit .227 on the way to 62 kills. The Lady Flames posted 11.5 team blocks, compared to 10 for the Runnin' Bulldogs.
With two out of its first three conference matches lasting five sets, Liberty has now won 10 straight 3-2 matches against Big South opponents.
Ansley Gebben registered a career-high 16 kills in addition to a personal-best four block assists and two aces for the Lady Flames. Loren Thomas broke into double-figures with 11 kills to go with seven blocks.
For Gardner-Webb, Lauren Evans hit .436 while sending down 18 kills to go with 10 digs, while Carol Solano (.429) earned 13 kills.
Gardner-Webb built a quick 9-4 lead in set one, but Liberty surged ahead, 14-13, with a 5-1 rally that included two kills by Thomas. The Lady Flames then extended their advantage to five, 22-17 following kills from Thomas and Gebben. A Gebben kill provided Liberty with three set point chances at 24-21. The Runnin' Bulldogs scored the next four points, including three consecutive blocks, good for a 25-24 lead.
Liberty regained the advantage at 27-26 after a Runnin' Bulldogs error. However, Gardner-Webb scored the final three points of the set, and a Wilcox kill clinched set one for the visitors, 29-27.
Gardner-Webb hit .242 in set one, compared to .167 for Liberty as both teams recorded five blocks. Happel led all players with six kills during set one, while Gebben and Thomas had four each. Wilcox paced Gardner-Webb with four kills.
The Lady Flames broke open a 10-10 set-two tie with a 4-0 run that featured a block by Craycraft and Melissa Racz and a Craycraft kill. Liberty remained ahead for the remainder of the set, finishing on a 7-2 run, with Gebben cashing in two kills and Happel sealing set two, 25-17, with her ninth kill of the match. Liberty pulled into a 1-1 tie heading into intermission.
Liberty held Gardner-Webb to a .027 hitting percentage during the second set, putting up five team blocks, four of which were assisted by Thomas. Five Lady Flames earned kills in set three, while Evans posted four kills for the guests.
Set three, like Saturday's first set, featured eight ties and six lead changes and went past 25 for the winning score. Gardner-Webb led for a majority of the early-going in set three, and was ahead, 19-15, following an Evans kill. Liberty then surged into the lead with a 5-1 run, as Thomas sent down two kills. The Runnin' Bulldogs earned a 24-23 lead after kills by Melissa Richie and Solano. Happel then posted kills in two out of the final three serves, and Liberty took a 2-1 match lead with a 26-24 set-three win.
Happel scored six of Liberty's 17 set-three kills, and Gebben added five. Evans earned six kills, and Solano had five. The guests posted four blocks in set three, while Liberty totaled 22 digs.
Gardner-Webb did not allow Liberty to take the lead at any point during set four. A 12-point G-W run, including 11 consecutive points while Moffitt served, staked the visitors to an 18-6 advantage. The Runnin' Bulldogs forced a decisive fifth set with a 25-13 fourth-set win.
The visitors hit .619 while totaling 14 kills in set four, led by Evans' 5-for-6 showing. Happel posted four of Liberty's seven kills.
Liberty turned the tables in the final set, hitting 10-for-16 (.625) with no errors, scoring points on all seven Gardner-Webb serves. The Lady Flames stormed out to a 5-1 lead, and held an 8-3 edge at the changeover. Gardner-Webb trimmed the deficit to four, 9-5, but Liberty staged a 5-0 rally, including two Cooper aces, to claim set point. Thomas ended the match with a kill, giving Liberty the 15-6 set five win.
For the match, Jade Craycraft dished out a season-high 47 assists, finishing with nine digs as well. Libero Gabrielle Shipe checked in with 12 digs for her third double-digit dig match in a row. Six Lady Flames finished with between seven and 13 digs, on the way to 59 digs as a team. Courtney Cooper served up two aces and had eight digs, while Becca Haraf registered nine digs.
Cockrell led all players with eight blocks (one solo, seven block assists) and scored 10 kills. Heather Feldman tied for the match high with 47 assists and also totaled 11 digs and four blocks. Evan Moffitt served up four out of Gardner-Webb's five aces.
The Lady Flames next compete at High Point Friday at 7 p.m. in a rematch of the 2010 Big South Championship title match. Liberty will then head to Buies Creek, N.C., to take on Campbell Saturday at 5 p.m.
The Runnin' Bulldogs return home, where they will host Winthrop and Presbyterian College on Friday and Saturday, respectively.