Liberty claimed a 25-21, set-one victory over Kennesaw State on Saturday, before the host Owls rallied to win three straight, downing the Lady Flames, 3-1 (21-25, 26-24, 25-20, 25-18) at KSU Convocation Center.
With the win, Kennesaw State evens its season record to 1-1. Liberty (0-2) will search for its first win of the season at 5:30 p.m. this evening, taking on Missouri to close out its time at the Kennesaw State Invitational.
Liberty outhit the Owls, .149-.147 for the match, while also leading 9-8 in blocks and 74-63 in digs. KSU led, 6-5, in service aces, while Liberty sustained 15 service errors.
Amariah Boyer paced the Owls with 13 kills, while Sydni Shelton scored nine kills and Katarina Morton collected a match-high 27 digs. Kristi Piedimonte dished out 36 assists.
Gabrielle Vess was one of three Lady Flames with a double-double, posting a match-high 16 kills to go with 13 digs. Leah Clayton totaled 15 kills and 17 digs, while Hannah Morris recorded match highs of 47 assists and four aces to go with 12 digs and four blocks. Casey Goodwin registered 10 kills, while Sirena Vorster added eight kills and six blocks. Michelle Melendez tied her career high with 22 digs.
Clayton and Goodwin were the first pair of Liberty true freshmen to reach double-figures in kills in the same match since Nov. 19, 2010 at Winthrop, when Lillie Happel (11) and Jade Craycraft (10) did so.
The Lady Flames burst out of the gates, taking the lead, 19-11, following a 6-0 rally that Morris capped with an ace. Clayton gave Liberty a 22-15 advantage with her seventh kill. Kennesaw State staged a 6-2 run to trim the deficit to 24-21 before a combo block sealed the 25-21, set-one win.
Liberty outhit KSU, .353-.150, during the opening frame, as Clayton led the way with eight kills.
With the score tied, 11-11, in set two, Vess sparked a 4-0 rally with a kill. After a Vorster kill put Liberty ahead 18-15, Kennesaw State scored four straight points to take a 19-18 edge. The Lady Flames battled into the lead, 23-22, before the Owls' 4-2 run scored a 26-24 win for the hosts.
Despite dropping the second set, Liberty outhit the hosts, .163-.079. The Owls posted four blocks during the session.
Goodwin pushed Liberty ahead, 13-12, with her fifth set-three kill. A 5-0 Owl rally ensued. The Owls boosted their lead to 23-18 on a kill by Liesl Engelbrecht. Back-to-back kills from Anna Gragg and Clayton narrowed the gap to 23-20, before KSU scored twice to take the set, 25-20.
Neither team found a rhythm in the third stanza, with Kennesaw State holding a slight, .079-.047 edge in hitting percentage.
Kennesaw State led set four, 20-12, after a Madeline Johnson kill. Liberty narrowed the gap to 21-18 with a 6-1 run that was capped by a Vess kill. However, the Owls scored the next four points to take the set and match.
The hosts outhit Liberty, .225-.059, in the final frame, despite Vess leading with six kills in set four.