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No. 1 Liberty Sweeps No. 4 UNC Asheville in Conference Semifinal
Liberty claimed a resounding 3-0 (25-17, 25-16, 25-14) sweep over fourth-seeded UNC Asheville in Friday's Big South Championship semifinal, qualifying for the conference final for the fifth season in a row.
The Lady Flames will compete in the Big South Championship final, to be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday in Charleston, S.C. Liberty will meet No. 3 seed Radford in the final. The Highlanders earned a 3-2 victory over No. 2 seed Winthrop after trailing, 2-0, in Friday's second semifinal.
Radford and Liberty contested a pair of five-set matches this season, with the Lady Flames prevailing during both meetings against the Highlanders. These two programs have met twice before in the Big South Championship final, with Liberty defeating Radford for the championship in 1999 and again in 2001.
Liberty (19-12) posted a .430 attack percentage on Friday, its second-best hitting efficiency of the season, and highest by the Lady Flames in a Big South Tournament match during the rally-scoring era. The Lady Flames scored 48 kills while committing just eight attack errors.
UNC Asheville, which connected on 31 kills at a .144 pace, ends its 2011 campaign with a 15-14 record.
Lille Happel led the Lady Flames with 15 kills and nine digs, and hit .393 for the match. Kendle Rollins went 9-for-14 on the attack, hitting .643. Rollins added three block assists.
Ansley Gebben hit .421 with nine kills, also posting three blocks. Jade Craycraft dished out a match-high 35 assists in addition to eight digs and three blocks. Loren Thomas posted a match-high four block assists, helping the Lady Flames to 9.5 team blocks.
Meredith Foster paced the Bulldogs with 11 kills, converting at a .429 pace, and Cindi Miller added 10 kills for UNC Asheville.
Liberty staked a 14-9 lead in set one, with Kendle Rollins, Happel and Gebben sending down consecutive kills during a 3-0 rally. UNC Asheville answered with a three-point run of its own, pulling to within two, 14-12. Gebben then scored back-to-back kills, and the Bulldogs would not get any closer.
Happel registered a pair of late kills to help the Lady Flames maintain their momentum. Gebben recorded the set-clinching kill in Liberty's 25-17 victory.
Liberty hit .308 during the opening set, scoring 16 kills. UNC Asheville countered with a .122 attack percentage. Happel sent down eight kills and Gebben posted six kills in set one. Foster led the Bulldogs with four set-one kills.
During set two, Liberty broke open a tight one-point margin with an 8-4 run, taking a 13-8 lead. Four different Lady Flames contributed kills in the early going. UNC Asheville pulled to within three, 15-12, after a kill by Anna Moore. Liberty scored the ensuing three points, capped by a Craycraft-Thomas block.
In total, the Lady Flames went on a 10-4 rally to end the set, as Rollins scored a kill to seal set two, 25-16. Liberty took a 2-0 lead into the intermission.
The Lady Flames connected at a torrid .577 clip in set two, sending down 16 kills while committing just one attack error. UNC Asheville hit .240 for the second set. Rollins earned kills on all five of her attempts during set two, while Miller had five kills for the Bulldogs.
Liberty's blocking helped the Lady Flames storm out to a 15-6 lead to open set three, as Happel posted a solo block and Rollins and Gebben assisted on two rejections apiece. Holly Shelton ended the Lady Flames' 6-0 run with a kill, making the score 15-7.
Liberty stretched its lead to nine, 21-12, following kills by Racz and Happel. Thomas sent down a kill for a 24-14 edge, and the Lady Flames claimed the sweep with a block by Thomas and Craycraft.
The white-clad Lady Flames connected for a .464 hitting percentage in the final set, earning 16 kills for the third set in a row, compared to .097 for UNC Asheville. Happel paced Liberty with four set-three kills and five digs.