Liberty's three seniors played a key role in a 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-19) Lady Flames' sweep over the visiting Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs, Friday at the Vines Center.
With the win, Liberty's fourth in a row, the Lady Flames improve to 10-14 on the season, including 7-4 in Big South play. The Lady Flames are now ranked third in conference standings outright. The Runnin' Bulldogs' losing streak extends to nine, as GWU is now 7-17, 1-10 in conference play.
Liberty honored its three seniors – Gabrielle Vess, Sirena Vorster and Anna Willey, with a Senior Night ceremony. Vess then registered her team-leading seventh double-double of the season with 10 kills and 11 digs, while Vorster scored seven kills and added five blocks. Willey tied for the team lead with 17 assists.
For the match, Liberty outhit Gardner-Webb, .168-.083, while also leading in kills (38-29), and digs (59-50). The Runnin' Bulldogs held a 9-7 lead in blocks.
Anna Gragg shared match-high honors with Vess, as both Liberty players scored 10 kills. Margaret Latchford collected a match-high 21 digs, and passed Nicole Nice (1989-92) and Kyrie Dorn (1996-99) into 13th place in program history with 1,237 career digs. Victoria Baptista collected 12 digs, while Amaya Williams dished out 17 assists.
Maria Emmick led Gardner-Webb with eight kills, while Amanda Sahm recorded a match-high 27 assists to go with 12 digs. Kaelyn Dyson registered a match-high two aces and added four blocks. Emma Milstead collected 16 digs, while Hannah Driscoll posted five blocks.
Set one saw major swings in momentum. Liberty staged a 7-0 run, aided by a pair of Vorster-Jenna Culhan blocks, building a 16-7 lead. The Runnin' Bulldogs then went on an 11-1 rally, getting four kills from Nicole Celarek during the burst while gaining the lead at 18-17. Trailing, 19-18, Liberty ended the set on a 7-2 burst to take the victory, 25-21.
Both teams hit .111 during the opening set, as Gardner-Webb posted four blocks and Liberty served up two aces.
Liberty stifled Gardner-Webb's attack during set two, registering five blocks while holding the Runnin' Bulldogs to a -.062 (7-9-32) hitting percentage on the way to a 25-20 victory and 2-0 match lead. Vess scored four set-four kills, while Vorster assisted on three blocks.
The Lady Flames doubled GWU's score, 14-7, early in the final set. The visitors battled back to within 20-17 after a kill by Dyson. However, Goodwin scored a pair of kills to help Liberty regain a five-point cushion, 23-18. After a Runnin' Bulldogs kill, Liberty's seniors teamed up for the final two points. Willey assisted Vorster's kill, before Vess pounded the match-clinching kill off of a Willey assist, sealing the 25-19 win.
During set three, Liberty outhit Gardner-Webb, .250-.163. Liberty's Gragg and Goodwin, along with GWU's Dyson, sent down five kills each in the final session.
The Lady Flames remain home and will face Campbell tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the Vines Center. Liberty will look to avenge a 3-0 loss at the hands of the Camels, Oct. 6 at Gore Arena.
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