Lady Flames run a-fowl in weekend tourney

No. 16 Oregon Ducks prove too much to handle despite offensive strengths

The Lady Flames volleyball team continued their non-league schedule Wednesday afternoon, taking on the 16th ranked University of Oregon Ducks in Liberty’s first game against a nationally ranked opponent in three years. Liberty succumbed to the Pac-12 school, losing a three set battle 25-9, 25-21, 25-17. Despite the final score, Coach Pinder was able to take many moral victories from the game.

Stiff competition — The Lady Flames are a talented bunch but have faced tough opponents as of late. Photo credit: Les Schofer, Liberty Sports

“I was looking to see our team’s poise, how to learn to play for points against a team like Oregon,” Coach Pinder said. After the first set, losing 25-9, I was proud in how our players showed resolve. They battled and made those last two sets very competitive, with respectable scores at the end.”

Besides posting 38 points in the final two games, several individuals had impressive outings against Oregon. Loren Thomas, a 6-foot-3 inch junior, posted five blocks as Liberty out-blocked Oregon overall, registering seven blocks to Oregon’s two.

Senior defensive specialist Kelly Haseman tied for a match-high 11 digs, keeping her on pace to break Liberty’s career dig record sometime mid-season.

On offense, sophomore outside hitter Lillie Happel followed up her strong tournament last week with a match-high 10 kills, her second double digit kill effort in as many matches.

“We out-blocked them today, utilizing our size against a very good attack. Our offense got better throughout the match, which was positive. This was a great experience for our program and for these players,” Pinder said.

Besides the experience for the current players, the game against Oregon served a greater purpose for the future of Liberty’s volleyball program in terms of publicity and name recognition nationwide.

“We want recruits to know that we play some of the top teams in the nation and ultimately, that the vision is to win one of these matches one day,” Pinder said.

“I see it out on the horizon that we not only go in there and compete, which I think we are right now — we’re playing great — we’re just not able to close them, but I see a day out there if God doesn’t come back that we start winning these games,” Pinder said.

The match took place in Washington, D.C., and was hosted by American University.

Liberty will play Rider University Sept. 9 in Lynchburg.

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