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Corbin Leads Lady Flames To Key Big South Win Over UNC Asheville
Coach Shane Pinder's Lady Flames avenged an earlier 3-0 setback against the Bulldogs with arguably their biggest win of the season. The victory improves Liberty's overall record to 8-15. Now 6-4 in conference play, the Lady Flames are alone in third place in the Big South standings, one match behind UNC Asheville.
The Bulldogs leave town with a 10-15 overall mark and a 7-3 Big South record despite 27 kills from outside hitter Elif Unlu. UNCA had won eight of its previous 10 matches entering the contest.
The match saw a number of significant momentum swings, starting in the opening game. Unlu got off to a fast start, recording three early kills and giving her team an 11-8 advantage. Liberty then responded with a 13-6 burst, featuring seven straight points on the serve of Autum Black (Sr., MB, Mingoville, Pa.), taking a 21-17 lead.
The home team owned a 26-22 edge before the Bulldogs closed game one with a fury. UNCA scored eight of the game's final 10 points to win, 30-28. Unlu had three more kills during that run and the visitors wrapped it up with a block by Lauren Ficker and Emily Palma. Unlu tallied nine total kills in the opening game and helped her team hit .316.
For a while, it looked like game two was going to have a similar ending to its predecessor. Liberty capitalized on nine UNC Asheville attack errors and a trio of service errors and led much of the way. It was 23-19 in favor of the Lady Flames before UNCA put together another late-game run.
Raquel Miotto served for six-straight points, helping the visitors reclaim the lead at 26-23. The Lady Flames then stormed back with five-consecutive points of their own, retaking the lead for good at 27-26 on a Lara Bartolomeo (Jr., S/DS, Huntington Beach, Calif.) service ace. A powerful kill by Black sealed a 30-28 victory and sent the teams to the locker room tied at one game apiece.
Liberty led throughout the first half of game three, taking a 15-10 advantage into the TV timeout. Whatever UNCA Coach Julie Torbett said during that break had an effect. The Bulldogs came back to take a 20-18 lead on a kill by Unlu.
Corbin (Beaverton, Ore.), who totaled three kills, 12 assists, five digs and a block assist in game three, served for six-consecutive points, enabling Liberty to take a commanding, 25-20 lead. The Lady Flames finished their 30-24 victory with a Black kill.
The Bulldogs held the lead by as many as three points early in game four. Liberty bounced back to lead by five at 20-15. UNCA did not go down quietly. Back-to-back kills by Unlu knotted the score at 27 apiece. Alysson Sanders (R-So., OH, Bear, Del.) then played a starring role in the evening's final points.
Sanders put down a kill to give her team a 28-27 lead, making it her turn to serve. The Delaware native then recorded another kill, setting up match point. Her final serve clipped the top of the net and fell harmlessly in the middle of the Bulldog formation, making the final score 30-28 and wrapping up a 3-1 win for the Lady Flames.
Liberty enjoyed an extremely balanced attack as six players recorded between nine and 15 kills. Sanders paced the Lady Flames with 15 kills. Kendall Nichols (So., OH, Hoover, Ala.) played one of her best matches of the season, ending up with a double-double (12 kills, 17 digs). Black and fellow senior Rachel Denton (MB, Burnet, Texas) totaled 10 kills apiece.
Corbin finished with nine kills, 45 assists, 21 digs and three block assists. Mary Alice Pike (Jr., RS, Durham, N.C.) notched nine kills, eight assists and 14 digs. Bartolomeo contributed 20 digs of her own.
Unlu posted her 17th double-double of the season, totaling 12 digs to go with her 27 kills. Raquel Miotto starred on defense for the visitors, racking up 29 digs. Setter Kaitlyn McDaniel posted 58 assists and 10 digs.
The team statistics came out almost completely even. Both teams recorded 66 kills, while UNCA's .209 attack percentage was slightly better than Liberty's .205. The Lady Flames posted eight blocks to the Bulldogs' seven and recorded seven service aces to just two for the visitors.
Liberty will play the third match of a six-match homestand Saturday at 2 p.m. against Birmingham-Southern. The contest will carry significant Big South implications as the Panthers sit one-half match behind the Lady Flames in the conference standings.
UNC Asheville will remain in Virginia to battle Radford on Saturday. Match time is set for 4 p.m.