Lady Flames overcome injuries, win 7th straight conference opener

Liberty sets team record with 20.5 blocks vs. Radford

Liberty volleyball opened Big South play Friday, taking on Radford University at the Dedmon Center in Radford, Va. Liberty (6-9, 1-0) defeated the Radford Highlanders (4-9, 0-1) for the 20th consecutive time, with the 20th match perhaps being the closest in recent memory. The Flames outlasted the Highlanders in what was the first match to last five games for Liberty this season.

Stepping it up — Due to injuries, Liberty’s bench was key in the victory against Radford. Photo credit: Les Schofer

Liberty blocked well the entire match, with two players, junior Loren Thomas and sophomore Jade Craycraft, recording double-digit block assists — a feat not achieved since 2001. Thomas, who led the Flames in blocks, also recorded 11 kills for her first career double-double.

“… I thought our block was exceptional. That’s like having another attacker out there for us, with 20.5 blocks, which was exceptional,” Coach Pinder said.

Liberty’s defense at the net was especially noteworthy considering that sophomore middle blocker Kendle Rollins, who sustained a foot injury in a match against James Madison University earlier in the week, did not play against Radford.

Prior to the match, Rollins was the team leader in total blocks. Also headlining the injury report was senior defensive specialist Kelly Haseman who sustained an injury in game one and did not return.

“It’s been an emotional week for us, losing Kendle Rollins out of the starting lineup Tuesday, and then 10 to15 points into the first set tonight, we lost Kelly Haseman, our libero. We were throwing things together mid-match, obviously, different lineups and different responsibilities, and at that point we were pretty vulnerable,” Coach Pinder said.

With the Flames re-shuffling their lineup in the wake of Haseman’s injury, they lost game one (25-19) before winning game two (25-16) and three (25-17). Senior Courtney Cooper stepped into the libero role recording 21 digs. Radford took the fourth game (25-19) to force game five, which the Flames won (15-11).

“Opening up Big South with a win is always nice, especially going on the road,” Pinder said. “The players, in terms of how they stayed in it and kept grinding, pulled out a great road win. In a night where our outside hitters had a rough time, they got all the right kills at the right time. We’re proud and happy with the win, and looking forward to having a week before the next match.”

The Lady Flames first home conference game is against the University of North Carolina Asheville Sept. 30 in the Vines Center.

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