Margaret Latchford collected 28 digs on Saturday, pushing her into ninth place in program history with 1,326 career digs.
Liberty closed out the regular season with a hard-fought, 3-2 (24-26, 25-13, 26-24, 23-25, 15-11) win over Gardner-Webb, Saturday at the Paul Porter Arena. Liberty (11-18, 8-8 Big South) snapped a four-match winless streak, finishing tied with Winthrop for fifth in the Big South standings. The Lady Flames have won their final match before the Big South Volleyball Championship in 20 out of the last 21 years. Gardner-Webb (7-22, 1-15) lost its last 14 matches.
For the match, Liberty outhit Gardner-Webb, .169-.123. The Lady Flames tied a season-high with eight service aces, while also collecting 94 digs, compared to 88 for GWU. Liberty led, 10-6 in blocks.
Gabrielle Vess registered a double-double with 17 kills, 20 digs and six blocks. Casey Goodwin sent down 16 kills, while Anna Gragg recorded nine kills and six blocks. Margaret Latchford collected a match-high 28 digs, moving her into ninth place in program history with 1,326 career digs. Victoria Baptista collected a career-high 19 digs while Sirena Vorster served up a season-high five aces. Hannah Morris dished out a season-high 32 assists.
Tyra Long scored a match-high 18 kills for Gardner-Webb, while Hannah Driscoll scored 14 kills. Kaelyn Dyson totaled 13 kills and five blocks. Amanda Sahm registered a double-double with 52 assists and 24 digs. Nicole Celarek recorded 11 kills, while Emma Milstead collected 27 digs.
Liberty led set one, 22-19, following a Gardner-Webb error. The Runnin' Bulldogs then went on a 4-0 run, taking a 23-22 lead on a Long-Dyson block. The Lady Flames tied it at 23-23 and again at 24-24, before Long scored a kill and Liberty had an attack error, giving GWU the 26-24 win.
During set one, GWU outhit Liberty, .173-.083. Driscoll scored six kills, while Long and Liberty's Gragg sent down five kills apiece.
The Lady Flames won set two going away, 25-13, hitting .360 compared to .000 for the Runnin' Bulldogs. Liberty served up three second-set aces, including two from Baptista.
It appeared the Gardner-Webb would take set three, leading 17-12. Goodwin led Liberty's charge from that point, scoring six kills during a 9-4 run to give Liberty a 22-21 lead. The Lady Flames gained set point at 24-22, before GWU kills from Maria Emmick and Long tied it up. Jenna Culhan and Vess the scored back-to-back kills to seal the 26-24 win for Liberty.
Liberty outhit Gardner-Webb, .213-.122, during set three, led by eight kills at a .500 pace from Goodwin.
The Runnin' Bulldogs led set four, 19-14, after a kill by Dyson. Vess scored two kills during a four-point Liberty rally, as the visitors narrowed the gap to 19-18. After five sideouts, Celarek's kill made it 22-21. The Lady Flames jumped ahead, 23-22, following a GWU error and an ace by Vess. Gardner-Webb scored the final three points, sending it to a fifth set with a 25-23 win.
Set four saw GWU hit .162, compared to .048 for Liberty. Vess led all players with seven set-four kills.
Gardner-Webb got off to a fast start in the fifth set, leading 7-3 following a Driscoll kill. Vorster then sent down two kills during a 5-0 Liberty run as the guests took an 8-7 lead at the side change. GWU went ahead, 10-9, on a kill by Long. Culhan tied the set at 10-10 with a kill, before a Vess-Gragg block made it 11-10, Liberty. Vorster then served up two straight aces, boosting the lead to 13-10. After a Liberty error, Vess and Gragg scored kills, giving Liberty the 15-11 win.
The Lady Flames outhit the Runnin' Bulldogs, .259-.154, in the fifth set. Culhan scored three kills, while Vorster served up two aces.
Liberty has finished its regular-season schedule, and will now prepare for the 2017 Big South Volleyball Championship, held next Friday through Sunday at the Dedmon Center in Radford, Va. Seeding and matchups for the Big South Volleyball Championship will be announced this evening.
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