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Lady Flames Edge Winthrop in Marathon Match

September 25, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The Lady Flames celebrate the final point of Friday evening's 3-2 victory over Winthrop.

The Lady Flames celebrate the final point of Friday evening's 3-2 victory over Winthrop.

Junior outside hitter Nicki Scripko recorded six of her team-high 19 kills during a prolonged fifth set, Friday evening at the Vines Center, helping the Lady Flames open Big South play with a hard-fought 3-2 (25-15, 25-20, 22-25, 18-25, 27-25) victory over Winthrop.

The Lady Flames needed 13 match points before finally improving to 6-7 overall and 1-0 in conference play. Meanwhile, Winthrop's three-match winning streak was halted, as the Eagles drop to 8-6 overall and 0-1 in the Big South.

The 488 fans in attendance were treated to an epic fifth set, which lasted 30 minutes and included 17 ties. One of the longest final stanzas in Liberty history, it really picked up when the Lady Flames fashioned a 4-1 burst, earning their first of 13 match points at 14-13. Kirstyn Sanders (R-Jr., MB/RS, Bear, Del.) stood out during the run, recording two kills and a block assist.

The two teams then traded points for the next 24 rallies. Both sides played high-quality volleyball during the stretch, as 18 of the 24 rallies ended in kills. Another notable play during that part of the deciding set was the first career block by Liberty defensive specialist Courtney Cooper (R-Fr., Forest, Va.), a solo effort which made it 22-21, Lady Flames.

The match finally came to an end when Winthrop setter Kelsey Hall committed a ball-handling error, making the final score 27-25, in favor of the Lady Flames.

Both teams finished with solid attack percentages in set five, with Winthrop hitting .293 and Liberty finishing at .275. Chelaine McCarty (Sr., MB, Houston, Ala.) complemented Scripko's (Fayetteville, N.C.) six fifth-set kills with five of her own, hitting .500 in the process. Meanwhile, Kaley Viola and Kelley Taylor ended with seven kills each for Winthrop during set five.

Liberty took advantage of 14 Winthrop errors (13 attack errors and one service error) during the first set, on its way to a comfortable 25-15 triumph. Freshman Loren Thomas (MB, Ocoee, Fla.) starred for the Lady Flames during the stanza, converting both of her attacks into kills and contributing to four of Liberty's five blocks.

The second set was more tightly contested, as the two teams accounted for 10 ties and five lead changes. Liberty swung momentum in its favor with an 8-2 surge, midway through the session. Scripko contributed an ace, a kill and a solo block to the run, which gave the Lady Flames a lead they would not relinquish, at 17-12. Thomas' kill put the finishing touches on Liberty's 25-20 triumph, sending the home team to the locker room with a seemingly commanding 2-0 advantage.

Led by three kills apiece from Kellie Sellers and Taylor, Winthrop actually hit for a higher percentage during set two than Liberty, .161 to .095. However, serving made the difference, as the Lady Flames tallied three aces while the Eagles notched six service errors.

Winthrop never trailed in the third set, after racing out to a 5-0 advantage on Hall's serve. Liberty cut the gap to two points on six occasions, but could not get over the hump and a kill by Sara Felts wrapped up the Eagles' 25-22 victory.

Scripko led all players with six kills during the middle stanza. However, Sellers and Viola pounded down five kills each for the victorious Eagles, who hit a match-best .351 as a team.

A trio of Sellers kills fueled a 7-1 Winthrop spurt early in the fourth set. The extended surge put the red-clad visitors in front by a 10-5 margin. The Eagles maintained their lead for the remainder of the session, forcing the aforementioned fifth set with their 25-18 win.

Sellers shone for Winthrop throughout set four, hitting .455 with six kills, five digs and a block assist. Meanwhile, Liberty managed only a .000 team attack percentage.

As expected, the final team statistics were pretty even. Liberty led the way in service aces (4-3) and blocks (16-13), while Winthrop won the attack percentage battle (.198-.153) and had 86 digs to the Lady Flames' 83.

Scripko was one of two Lady Flames to record a double-double on Friday, adding 16 digs to her 19 kills. Setter Kallie Corbin (Sr., Beaverton, Ore.) also hit double digits in two categories, ending up with 47 assists and a season-high 16 digs.

Other Liberty offensive contributors included McCarty, who hit a match-high .355 with a season-best 15 kills, and freshman Hannah Anderson (OH, Rocklin, Calif.), whose 10 kills equaled her career high.

Speaking of career highs, both Sanders and Thomas recorded seven blocks for head coach Shane Pinder's squad. Both rejection totals set new personal bests, while Thomas also notched a career-high seven kills.

Liberty libero Kelly Haseman (So., Three Rivers, Mich.) equaled her career high with a team-best 23 digs, going over the 20-dig mark for the fourth time this season.

On the opposite side of the net, Winthrop was led by the attacking of Viola, Sellers and Taylor. Viola paced all players with 21 kills and completed a double-double with 15 digs. Sellers also recorded a double-double, consisting of 17 kills and 19 digs. Meanwhile, Taylor finished with 16 kills.

Hall put up a match-high 54 assists for the Eagles, while Winthrop libero Ginnie Talley hustled her way to a match-best 26 digs.

Liberty will close the opening weekend of conference play Saturday at 2 p.m., when the Lady Flames welcome Coastal Carolina to the Vines Center. The contest will be a rematch of the 2008 Big South Championship title contest, which the Lady Flames won, 3-1.

Meanwhile, Winthrop will travel to High Point for a Saturday contest. Match time is set for 2 p.m. at the Millis Center.