The Liberty Lady Flames made a fierce rally to win the final three sets and take a 3-2 (18-25, 8-25, 25-22, 25-18, 15-9) decision at UNC Asheville, Friday at the Justice Center.
The Lady Flames (6-9, 1-2 Big South) earned their first conference win of the season, while the Bulldogs fall to 6-8, 0-3 in Big South play. Liberty also snapped UNC Asheville's eight-match home winning streak, as the Bulldogs had not lost in the Justice Center since Oct. 30, 2015. Prior to Friday night's match, the last time Liberty rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win a match was Oct. 11, 2014 against High Point.
For the match, UNC Asheville outhit Liberty, .226-.204, also leading, 62-51 in kills. The Bulldogs led, 8-3, in aces, while the Lady Flames held a 10-4 advantage in blocks. Both teams collected 55 digs.
Leah Clayton totaled 18 kills, 11 digs and four blocks for Liberty. Sirena Vorster scored nine kills at a .529 pace, while Kainah Williams posted five blocks. Anna Willey dished out a match-high 35 assists, while Michelle Melendez collected 13 digs and Payton Carter sent down eight kills.
UNC Asheville's Cara Guthrie led all players with 22 kills, while Madison Vaughn scored 11 kills and Shelby Erickson contributed 10 kills and 16 digs. Carter Kennedy dished out 29 assists, while Madisen Zyburt collected 15 digs.
The Bulldogs used a strong serving game in set one, registering four aces on the way to a 25-18 victory. UNC Asheville built its lead to 17-9 following a Guthrie kill. Liberty would get no closer than six points for the rest of the set. The hosts outhit the visitors, .429-.241, in the opening session, as Rooks sent down four first-set kills.
UNC Asheville burst out of the gates in the second stanza, leading 14-1 after 15 serves. The Bulldogs led the whole way, taking set two, 25-8. The Bulldogs continued their hot hitting, scoring at a .464 pace, led by seven kills from Guthrie. Liberty hit -.071 during the session.
The Lady Flames trailed set three, 19-16, after Vaughn served up an ace. Liberty battled back with a 4-0 run to take the lead, 20-19. Following three rally points, Clayton scored a kill during a three-point Lady Flames run. The guests cashed in on their second set-point try, winning, 25-22.
Liberty hit .297 in the third set, while Asheville attacked at a .195 clip. Clayton scored six kills for the Lady Flames during the third stanza.
The visitors stormed out to a 17-10 set-four lead. The Bulldogs chipped away at the deficit, drawing to within two at 19-17. Casey Goodwin then scored a kill, sparking a 6-1 Liberty run to the finish and forcing a decisive fifth set. The Lady Flames outhit the Bulldogs, .346-.077, during the fourth session.
With set five tied, 5-5, Williams sparked a 3-0 Liberty rally with a kill. UNC Asheville got to within two, 9-7, on a Guthrie winner, but the Lady Flames pulled away, finishing off the comeback win, 15-9, in set five. Liberty hit .200 during the final session and posted three blocks, as UNC Asheville hit .000.
Liberty returns home to play in the Vines Center for the first time in over a month, hosting a pair of Big South matches. The Lady Flames take Gardner-Webb on Friday at 7 p.m., before facing Winthrop on Saturday at 2 p.m.