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Runnin' Bulldogs Sweep Liberty, 3-0
The Liberty volleyball team suffered its second conference loss of the season, as the home-standing Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs downed the Lady Flames, 3-0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-19), Friday at Paul Porter Arena.
Liberty (16-12, 11-2 Big South) saw its seven-match winning streak end, and is now in second place in the Big South standings. Winthrop concluded its regular-season schedule Friday with a 12-2 Big South record. The Lady Flames need to win Saturday at UNC Asheville to seal a tie with Winthrop for the conference regular-season championship.
The Runnin' Bulldogs (10-18, 5-8 Big South), playing on their Senior Night, posted their program's first-ever win over Liberty, as the Lady Flames had won the previous 11 all-time meetings.
For the match, Gardner-Webb hit .368 as a team, while Liberty connected at a .124 clip. The Runnin' Bulldogs led in digs, 43-33, and in blocks, 4-2.
Lillie Happel led all players with 14 kills, while Kelly Haseman chipped in a team-leading 14 digs for the Lady Flames. Haseman is now eight digs shy of becoming the fifth player in Big South history with 1,900 career digs.
Jade Craycraft led the Lady Flames with 23 assists, giving her 2,004 career assists. She is the eighth Liberty player all-time with 2,000 or more assists, and fifth to achieve the mark as a sophomore.
Carol Solano led three Runnin' Bulldogs in double-figures with 13 kills. Lauren Evans added 11 kills, while Tyler Cockrell earned 10 kills and four blocks. Evan Moffitt collected a match-high 15 digs.
A 6-0 start sparked the Runnin' Bulldogs to a 13-5 lead early in set one. Laura Wilcox sent down a kill to give Gardner-Webb an 18-9 lead, prompting a Liberty timeout. The Lady Flames scored the next three points via Gardner-Webb errors, drawing to within six at 18-12. The Runnin' Bulldogs matched Liberty's 3-0 run, good for a 21-12 advantage. The home team then won set one, 25-15, to take a 1-0 match lead.
Gardner-Webb hit .417 during the opening set, compared to a -.062 mark for the Lady Flames. Solano led all players with four set-one kills, while Happel earned three out of Liberty's nine kills.
Liberty staged a 3-0 run to tie set two, 9-9, with Ansley Gebben posting a solo block and Gabrielle Shipe serving up an ace during the rally. Following a span of 11 straight sideouts, a Moffitt ace yielded a 16-14 Gardner-Webb lead. Liberty earned the next two points to knot the score at 16-all.
The Runnin' Bulldogs regained the advantage at 19-16 with three consecutive points. Happel later posted a pair of kills, bringing Liberty to within two, 23-21. Wilcox scored a kill for a 24-21, set-point opportunity. Erica Manor staved off set point with a kill, followed by a Gardner-Webb miscue. Evans then converted a kill to end set two, 25-23, in the hosts' favor.
During set two, Gardner-Webb continued its hot hitting, converting 17 kills at a .452 pace. Liberty was nearly as efficient, hitting .387 while recording 15 kills. Happel registered six kills in the second set, while Solano had five kills for the Runnin' Bulldogs.
With the set-three score tied at 7-7, the Runnin' Bulldogs went on a 7-1 run to take a 14-8 advantage, with a Cockrell kill capping the rally. The Lady Flames fought back with a 5-2 spurt, getting kills from Thomas and Happel while setting the score at 16-13. Gardner-Webb won the race to 20, with back-to-back Evans kills giving the hosts a 20-15 advantage.
Melissa Racz then sparked a three-point rally by sending down a kill, and Gardner-Webb took a timeout, leading 20-18. Following two Runnin' Bulldogs points, Kendle Rollins scored a kill for Liberty to close the gap to 23-19. Gardner-Webb converted its first match-point chance, winning set three, 25-19 after a block by Cockrell and Melissa Ritchie.
Gardner-Webb hit .275 in set three, with Cockrell and Evans sending down five kills apiece. Happel scored half of Liberty's 10 kills during the final set.
Liberty concludes the regular-season schedule on Saturday at 7 p.m., taking on the UNC Asheville Bulldogs at the Justice Center.