Liberty overcame a 2-1 match deficit for the second contest in a row, downing UNC Asheville, 3-2 (25-23, 19-25, 15-25, 25-22, 15-10), Saturday at the Vines Center.
With the win, Liberty (5-11) has opened Big South play at 2-1, while the Bulldogs fall to 6-9, 2-2 in conference play. UNC Asheville fell in five sets in both of its matches this week.
Liberty honored its 1997 Big South volleyball champion team in between sets two and three. The 1997 Lady Flames claimed the program's first of seven Big South tournament titles to date before facing Notre Dame in the 1997 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball championship first round.
On Saturday, Asheville outhit Liberty, .292-.218, while the Bulldogs also led, 6-4 in aces and 9-6 in blocks. Liberty held a 76-71 advantage in digs.
Liberty's Anna Gragg hit .400, scoring 18 kills and adding three blocks. Gabrielle Vess followed with 11 kills, while Margaret Latchford collected 20 digs. Anna Willey dished out a match-high 32 assists, while Sirena Vorster (.615) and Lydia Smith (.389) both scored eight kills. Jenna Culhan served up a career-high three aces, and Victoria Baptista collected 11 digs.
Cara Guthrie scored a match-high 21 kills to go along with 14 digs and four blocks for the Bulldogs. Ansley Rooks sent down 11 kills at a .435 pace, while Kailey Hackett dished out 24 assists. Sheridan Salisbury collected a match-high 22 digs, while Cecilia Stack totaled six blocks.
Set one featured 14 ties and six lead changes. Guthrie set the score at 21-18 with a kill. Following a Liberty timeout, Gragg and Smith scored back-to-back kills to spark a 4-0 Lady Flames run. Asheville tied it at 22-22 and 23-23, both times via Guthrie kills. The hosts scored the final two points, including a kill by Willey to clinch, 25-23.
During the opening set, Liberty outhit Asheville, .351-.205, despite Guthrie scoring seven kills for the visitors.
The Bulldogs bounced back in set two, hitting .500 (17-0-34) while limiting the Lady Flames to a .121 (11-7-33) hitting percentage on the way to a 25-19 win. Guthrie and Ava Venema both scored five set-two kills for UNC Asheville.
Liberty led the third set, 8-7, but the Bulldogs quickly rebounded, going on an 8-1 run to gain the lead, 15-9. The visitors pulled away to the finish, winning the third session, 25-15. The Bulldogs outhit the Lady Flames, .278-.051 in set three, as the guests also posted three aces and four blocks.
The Lady Flames put distance between themselves and the Bulldogs in the fourth set, leading 22-18 following a Gragg kill. Liberty gained set point, 24-19, before UNC Asheville scored three straight points to narrow the deficit to just two, 24-22. However, Gragg then sent down a kill to send the match to a fifth set.
Asheville hit .323 during the fourth session, while Liberty hit at a .314 clip. Gragg scored seven kills, while Vorster sent down six kills on seven attempts.
Rooks scored two kills during a 3-0 Asheville run, helping the guests build a 6-3, set-five lead. The Bulldogs still led by three, 8-5, at the court change. Liberty quickly tied it at 8-8 with a three-point surge. After an Asheville sideout, Vess scored a pair of kills and Culhan served up an ace as Liberty scored five straight point to lead, 14-9. Guthrie scored a kill, but Gragg then ended the match with a winner of her own.
During set five, Liberty hit .269, compared to .095 for UNC Asheville. Gragg hit .667 with four kills in the final session.
Liberty heads to the road for its next three matches, starting on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Dedmon Center, when the Lady Flames play at defending Big South regular-season champion Radford.