The Liberty Lady Flames brought an eight-match winning streak into a key conference showdown against Big South-leading Radford, Tuesday at the Vines Center. Liberty won a spirited first set, 28-26, before the visiting Highlanders rallied to win the match, 3-1 (26-28, 25-22, 25-20, 25-20).
Radford entered the match first in the Big South standings, with Liberty in second. The Highlanders improve to 19-4, including 10-1 in conference matches. The Lady Flames fall to 13-10, 8-3 in Big South play. Liberty's eight-match winning streak was its longest since winning 13 in a row during the 2014 season.
For the match, Radford outhit Liberty, .256-.183, while also leading, 9-6 in blocks and 4-2 in service aces. The Lady Flames held an 84-75 lead in digs.
Maddie Palmer led Radford with 22 kills, adding 17 digs and three aces. Mallory McKnight scored 13 kills, while Amaya Rousseau totaled 10 kills and five blocks. Haley Kleespies dished out a match-high 51 assists, while Kelby Jackson collected 19 digs. Leah Clayton scored a career-high 25 kills to go with 18 digs. Her 25 kills are tied for the most in a single match by a Lady Flame in a four-set match under the current 25-point rally-scoring format (Lillie Happel vs. Seton Hall, Sept. 2, 2011). Anna Willey recorded her eighth double-double of the season, with 46 assists and 13 digs. Gabrielle Vess recorded her seventh straight 10-kill match with 12 kills. Margaret Latchford collected 17 digs, while Michelle Melendez corralled 14 digs.
Liberty built a 15-10 lead after a Vorster solo block in set one. The Highlanders then staged a 10-2 rally to take the lead at 20-17. Trailing, 22-20, Clayton scored three kills during a quick spurt to give Liberty a 24-23 edge. After back-to-back Radford points, Clayton tied it at 25-all with her ninth kill of the set. Vess scored a kill on Liberty's third set-point try, 28-26.
The Lady Flames outhit Radford, .224-.196, in set one, despite the Highlanders posting four blocks. Clayton sent down nine kills during the opening session.
Radford bounced back, leading the second set, 16-11 after a quick 3-0 run. Liberty drew to within two, 17-15, on a block by Willey and Anna Gragg. Rousseau then scored three kills during a 6-3 run that set Radford's lead at 23-18. The Lady Flames fought to within two, 24-22, before Sydney Tekstra scored a winning kill.
Both teams hit well during set two, with Radford hitting .324 and Liberty connecting at a .278 pace.
A 5-0 rally gave Radford an 18-12 set-three lead. Gragg posted a block assist and a kill during a 4-0 run, as Liberty drew to within 18-16. Palmer sent down a kill, the first of three straight Highlander points. A Gragg kill later made it 22-19, but Radford pulled away to win, 25-20.
Clayton scored six kills during set three, but Radford outhit the Lady Flames, .279-.106.
The Highlanders led the final set, 18-10, before Liberty began to rally. Clayton scored a kill to cap an 8-3 Liberty rally as the hosts narrowed the gap to 21-18. That was as close as the Lady Flames would get, as Palmer scored the winning kill in the 25-20 victory.
Radford hit .244 in the fourth session, as Palmer scored eight kills, while Liberty hit .135.
The Lady Flames will next host UNC Asheville, this Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Vines Center. Liberty defeated the Bulldogs, 3-2, in the first meeting this season, Sept. 30 at the Justice Center.