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Liberty Posts Sweep of UNC Asheville, Clinches Top Seed
Liberty raced to a 3-0 sweep (25-12, 25-14, 25-23) over visiting UNC Asheville on Friday, wrapping up sole possession of the Big South regular-season title.
With the win, the Lady Flames advance to 21-7, including 11-2 in Big South play after avenging a Sept. 29 loss at UNC Asheville. Liberty has won or shared the conference regular-season title in each of the last six seasons, and will serve as the No. 1 seed in next week's Big South Volleyball Championship. The Bulldogs fall to 11-18, 7-6 in conference play.
Liberty is currently on a six-match winning streak overall. The team has also won a program-record 20 conference home matches in a row, along with 13 straight home matches and 23 straight home sets overall.
For the match, Liberty hit .344, compared to .114 for UNC Asheville. The Lady Flames led 9-2 in blocks, 54-39 in digs, and 6-3 in service aces.
Caroline Douglas led all players with 19 kills, hitting .372 on the evening. Lillie Happel added eight kills, nine digs and two aces. Loren Thomas posted seven blocks, including three solo rejections. Thomas moved past Anthonia Akpama (1996-99) into second place all-time at Liberty, and seventh in Big South history, with 458 career blocks.
Jade Craycraft dished out 33 assists and added 13 digs, good for her team-leading 10th double-double this season. Gabrielle Shipe collected a match-high 15 digs.
Holly Shelton paced the Bulldogs with 10 kills, while Katie Davis had 25 assists and Rachel Wells contributed 11 digs.
Liberty quickly took control of the match, leading set one from start to finish in a 25-12 victory. The Lady Flames sent down 15 kills at a .464 pace, while UNC Asheville hit .111 with seven kills. Caroline Douglas recorded four set-one kills and teammates Happel and Melissa Racz added three apiece. Shelton and Anna Moore had three kills each for the visitors.
Set two saw Douglas explode for 10 kills, as the Lady Flames won the middle frame, 25-14. By contrast, the Bulldogs registered six kills as a team during the second set. Liberty outhit UNC Asheville, .364-.029 in set two, using an opening 9-1 run to spark a dominant performance.
The Lady Flames and Bulldogs played a tightly-contested third set, one which included 10 ties and three lead changes. Trailing, 23-20, UNC Asheville rallied to tie the score on final time, getting back-to-back aces from Moore. The Lady Flames scored the final two points, including a block from Rollins and Craycraft, winning set three, 25-23, to seal the match.
Liberty totaled five team blocks and three aces during set three, limiting UNC Asheville to a .182 hitting percentage. Shelton paced Asheville with six kills in the final session, while Douglas had five kills.
The Lady Flames close out their regular season tomorrow, hosting Gardner-Webb inside the Vines Center at noon. Liberty will honor its four seniors (Lauren Bosché, Erica Manor, Kendle Rollins and Loren Thomas) prior to tomorrow's match.