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Lady Flames Stop Charleston Southern, 3-0
Liberty held off a Charleston Southern rally in the opening set Saturday, on the way to a 3-0 sweep (25-22, 25-16, 25-15) over the visiting Buccaneers at the Vines Center.
The Lady Flames evened their overall record at 11-11 with the win, and Liberty is now 6-1 in Big South matches. Liberty remains tied with Winthrop for the Big South lead. Charleston Southern now holds a 4-18 record, including a 1-6 mark in league contests.
Liberty posted its 11th straight Big South home victory, and its 10th win over Charleston Southern in a row.
Charleston Southern recorded 35 kills to 34 for Liberty, but the Buccaneers committed 27 attack errors, hitting .073. Liberty registered nine team blocks and six service aces in addition to attacking at a .196 pace.
Loren Thomas and Lillie Happel tied for the team lead for Liberty, each sending down eight kills. Thomas added six blocks (one solo, five assists), moving her into seventh place all-time at Liberty with 291 career blocks. She passed Stacy Collier (1994-97) on the career blocks list Saturday.
Liberty staked an early 8-4 lead to start the match, which CSU erased with a 5-1 run. Wynter Davis tallied two kills during the Buccaneers' surge. Ansley Gebben sent down three kills during a 6-3 rally, helping Liberty take a 15-12 lead. CSU fought back, gaining an 18-17 edge after a Davis kill, which capped an 8-2 skein. A kill from Melissa Racz knotted the set at 18-all, and Liberty then took a 22-20 advantage after kills by Erica Manor, Happel and Gebben.
CSU drew into a tie, scoring the next two points on a kill by Kayla Klinger and a block from Erin LaVenice and Andrea Keesee. Thomas then sent down back-to-back kills, and Gebben sealed set one for Liberty, 25-22, with a service ace.
Charleston Southern out-hit Liberty, percentage-wise, .242 to .219, during set one. Gebben paced the Lady Flames with four kills, while Davis hit 4-for-5 for the Buccaneers.
Liberty built a 14-5 lead during set two. The Lady Flames received seven of those 14 points by way of CSU miscues, in addition to two kills each from Happel and Thomas, and one apiece by Manor and Jade Craycraft. The hosts' lead hovered around nine points for the rest of the middle stanza, peaking at 22-11 after a block by Gebben and Thomas. Liberty claimed set two by a 25-16 score, taking a 2-0 lead into intermission.
The host Lady Flames hit .143 during the second set, compared to .057 by the Buccaneers. Happel recorded four kills for Liberty, while Kelly Haseman checked in with seven digs. Klinger posted four of CSU's nine set-two kills.
During set three, Liberty stormed ahead, 9-3, recording two blocks, both assisted by Thomas, in addition to kills from Racz, Craycraft and Happel. Morgan Hadden sent down kills for three straight points, and Keesee earned a kill to cap a 4-0 run, setting the score at 9-7.
The Lady Flames answered with an 8-2 rally to take a 17-9 lead, getting two blocks and a kill from Thomas and kills by Manor and Gebben. Liberty surged to the finish, as Jeannette Larsen earned a kill to give the hosts a 24-15 lead, and Thomas ended the match with a kill.
Liberty posted a .229 attack percentage in the final set, while Charleston Southern registered 11 kills and 13 attack errors for a -.048 showing. Thomas totaled four blocks and three kills during the final set, and Hadden had three kills for the Buccaneers.
For the match, Kelly Haseman registered 15 digs to pace the Lady Flames. Craycraft dished out a match-high 23 assists, in addition to three block assists. Happel and Melissa Racz tallied three block assists each. Gabrielle Shipe tied her career high with two service aces. Gebben contributed six kills and five digs.
Amy Nokes paced the Buccaneers with 18 assists and added 10 digs and eight kills, good for a double-double. Kayla Klinger led all players with nine kills, to go with eight digs. Ashley Higginbothem collected 11 digs, while Kirsten Struksnes totaled 11 assists and nine digs.
Liberty will spend next weekend on the road, competing at Winthrop Friday at 7 p.m. in a match for the Big South lead, before taking on Presbyterian College Saturday at 2 p.m. The Buccaneers return home, where they will face Gardner-Webb and UNC Asheville Friday and Saturday, respectively.