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Lady Flames Wrap Up Second Straight BSC Title

November 23, 2008  Asheville, N.C.  RSS
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The Lady Flames celebrate their second consecutive Big South volleyball title.

The Lady Flames celebrate their second consecutive Big South volleyball title.

On the strength of a balanced offensive attack, the Liberty volleyball team claimed its second consecutive Big South Volleyball Championship title, Sunday afternoon at the Justice Center in Asheville, N.C. The top-seeded Lady Flames held off third-seeded Coastal Carolina's late rally attempt to post a hard-fought 3-1 (25-21, 25-23, 23-25, 25-20) victory.

With its fifth straight victory, Liberty improves to 25-8 and earns the conference's automatic berth to the 2008 NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship. The Lady Flames are back-to-back Big South champions for the first time in program history and match Winthrop for the most conference titles in Big South history, with five.

On the opposite side of the net, Coastal Carolina's 10-match winning streak was halted, as the Chanticleers' season comes to an end at 27-7. Coastal Carolina fell, despite Megan Bickford's match-high 17 kills and .481 attack percentage.

Accordingly, Bickford earned a spot on the all-tournament team, along with Chanticleer libero Brett Starbuck, who paced her team with 21 digs. However, the all-tournament team was dominated by the Lady Flames, headed by MVP Kallie Corbin (Jr., S, Beaverton, Ore.). Corbin became the first back-to-back Big South Championship MVP in tournament history, after hitting .353 with seven kills, 46 assists and a team-high 21 digs on Sunday.

Joining Corbin on the all-tournament team were sophomores Karyl Bacon (OH/DS, Temecula, Calif.) and Nicki Scripko (OH/RS, Fayetteville, N.C.). Bacon notched her third consecutive double-double of the tournament, with a team-best and season high-equaling 15 kills to go along with 16 digs. Scripko flirted with a triple-double while making the all-tournament team for the second year in a row, contributing 11 kills, eight assists and seven digs.

The opening set started well for the Lady Flames, as Scripko contributed a block and an assist to a 3-0 burst out of the gate. Liberty never trailed during the first stanza, but could never build a sizable advantage either. Coastal Carolina trailed by a single point, 17-16, before a Corbin kill and a solo block by Jessica Nelson (R-Sr., OH, Tokyo, Japan) fueled a 3-0 Liberty run. Now owning a bit of breathing room, the Lady Flames went on to seal a 25-21 decision on Chelaine McCarty's (Jr., MB, Houston, Ala.) kill.

Nelson led Liberty offensively in the first set, hitting .333 with four kills. Meanwhile, Corbin posted nine assists and a set-high eight digs for the Lady Flames.

It was Coastal Carolina which roared out of the gate in set two. Outside hitter Chelsy Kimes pounded three kills through the Liberty defense during a set-opening 7-1 run. Liberty gradually chipped away at the deficit and was able to retake the lead, 15-14, after a 5-1 surge. The Lady Flames were on top, 18-16, before momentum swung back to the Chanticleers.

Coastal Carolina scored six of the next seven points, a run which featured a trio of blocks, to claim a 22-19 edge. Liberty bounced right back, pulling out an improbable 25-23 win after a 6-1 run. Bacon starred during the rally, with a solo block at 22-22 and the set-winning kill down the left sideline.

Ashley Webber (Sr., MB, Lakeside, Calif.) made her presence known in the second set, hitting a team-best .600 with four kills. Meanwhile, Bacon contributed seven digs, helping Liberty outdig Coastal Carolina, 21-14. Kimes was a potent threat for the Chanticleers, with seven kills.

One set away from elimination, Coastal Carolina did not go down easily. Again, Liberty quickly posted a 3-0 advantage. The Lady Flames' lead was short-lived, as a 6-1 Coastal Carolina spurt, including kills from five different Chanticleers, put Coastal Carolina ahead, 9-6. The Chanticleers never trailed again during the frame.

Liberty did even the score at 19-19, but a combined block by Jill Nyhof and Kristin Wolf and a kill by setter Meagan Tracey off a Lady Flame overpass put the Chanticleers on their way to a 25-23 triumph. Middle blocker Megan Bickford put away the set-winning kill, one of six for her during the set.

The Chanticleers hit a match-high .386 during set three and recorded five blocks. Nyhof had a hand in four of the rejections. Nelson led Liberty in the third set, tallying five kills and six digs.

Liberty took its biggest lead of the afternoon, 13-4, midway through set four. Coastal Carolina began to come back and had narrowed the gap to 20-18 on Amanda Russell's kill. The Lady Flames regained control with three consecutive points, including kills by Webber and Scripko and a solo block by Nelson. Shortly thereafter, Bacon's 15th kill of the contest careened off the Coastal Carolina blockers' hands and out of bounds, putting the finishing touches on Liberty's 25-20, championship-clinching victory.

Bacon provided a set-high six kills for the Lady Flames during the final set, while Bickford hit .667 with five kills in an effort to keep Coastal Carolina's title hopes alive.

For the match, the teams' offensive numbers were pretty even, as Liberty hit .248 to Coastal Carolina's .230. However, Liberty's defense made a decided difference, with the Lady Flames outdigging their opponent, 69-55. Liberty also reached its magical eight-block mark exactly. The Lady Flames are now 15-1 this season, when notching at least eight blocks in a match.

In addition to Liberty's aforementioned all-tournament team selections, several other Lady Flames stood out on Sunday. Liberty totaled four players in double figures in the kills category, as Bacon and Scripko were joined by Nelson and Webber. Nelson posted a double-double in the championship match for the second year in a row, ending with 11 kills and 13 digs.

Webber hit .353 with 10 kills and three blocks. Her trio of rejections enabled her to reach a pair of milestones. The senior now has 101 blocks this season, making her the only Liberty player since rally scoring was instituted to record consecutive 100-block campaigns. She also took over sole possession of fifth place on Liberty's career block list with 317.

Fellow middle blocker McCarty hit a team-high .467 with eight kills for the Lady Flames, while libero Kelly Haseman (Fr., Three Rivers, Mich.) aided the defense with seven digs.

Kimes chipped in 14 kills and a pair of aces for the Chanticleers, while Tracey paced all players with 50 assists. Finally, Nyhof assisted in eight of Coastal Carolina's 11 blocks in the contest.

Liberty's fifth trip to the NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship will begin with a first-round match, either Dec. 4, 5 or 6. The Lady Flames' destination and opening-round opponent will be announced next Sunday, Nov. 30, at 10 p.m. on ESPNU.

Liberty Head Coach Shane Pinder
"Once again, we were able to get some key points at key times. Our players showed a tremendous amount of resolve to get the job done. Kallie Corbin had a tremendous match, just like she has all weekend and all season. We got big plays from Karyl Bacon, especially in the second set with her blocking. We played well, but we had to because Coastal Carolina gave us everything we wanted. They disrupted us and made us earn everything we got."

Coastal Carolina Head Coach Kristen Bauer
"We gave a great effort, but had a lot to overcome today. Liberty just made big plays when it had to make them. I thought Liberty was outstanding on defense today."

Big South Championship All-Tournament Team
Kallie Corbin, Liberty (MVP)
Karyl Bacon, Liberty
Nicki Scripko, Liberty

Megan Bickford, Coastal Carolina
Brett Starbuck, Coastal Carolina
Lindsay Raus, High Point
Kelsey Benorden, UNC Asheville