Liberty dominates home invitational
Lillie Happel claims MVP honors and makes 400th career kill
The Liberty University Lady Flames volleyball team added three tallies to the win column over the weekend defeating Rider University, Saint Francis University and California State University Bakersfield at the Liberty Invitational.
Against the Rider University Broncos, Liberty hit .428, dominating the match from the onset. Liberty scored first and never looked back, leading the entire match en route to a three set victory (25-21, 25-12, 25-10).
Leading the Flames in kills was sophomore outside hitter Lillie Happel with 16 kills, including her 400th career kill, on a .387 average. Happel was voted the tournament’s Most Valuable Player for her efforts. Sophomore middle blocker Kendle Rollins recorded six kills, as well as one solo block and five block assists. Also on defense, senior Kelly Haseman tallied seven digs.
“Opening up with some really tough teams the past two weeks, with some of those top notch teams…we didn’t necessarily get the outcomes that we wanted in the beginning, but I think it ultimately helped get us to get where we are now. We had a lot of good chemistry out there and some good communication,” Happel said.
Liberty’s offense was again firing on all cylinders in game two against Saint Francis as five different players registered five or more kills in another three game sweep (25-19, 25-13, 25-14). Happel hit on 14 kills, and junior middle blocker Loren Thomas added eight to contribute to the team’s .300 hitting average. Sophomore setter Jade Craycraft recorded 30 assists. Craycraft was selected to the all-tournament team for her role in setting up Liberty’s attack.
“Lillie and Jade are, I guess, on some levels the veterans and they’re sophomores. We’re still pretty young, but they’ve had to carry a load early and I’m really happy about Lillie’s progression from last year to this year. She had to grow up quick and she’s making great decisions and taking big swings when we need it,” Coach Pinder said.
Liberty outlasted CSU Bakersfield in a back and forth game, one which included 16 tie scores, before going on to win in three sets (26-24, 25-8 25-16) for the third straight match.
Freshman outside hitter Ansley Gebben had a strong showing, hitting .350 with nine kills, as well as one ace, six digs and a solo block. Craycraft added 22 assists. Haseman moved into second place on the all-time list for digs with the seven she registered Saturday.
“She is a playmaker [Haseman]. And she makes it tough back there for opposing teams to get the ball down. You almost think there’s about four of five defenders back there. She has a knack for being in position to make the plays,” Pinder said.
Throughout the tournament, Liberty led the field with a .326 hitting average over three matches, as well as in number of kills, blocks and service aces.
“We had to answer some tough questions the last couple of weeks but the kids have never backed down and they came in this weekend hungry … to see these kids play with the type of poise that they did this weekend says a lot about the group,” Pinder said.
Liberty will meet North Carolina State Friday, Sept. 16 in Raleigh, and return home to the Vines Center to take on University of North Carolina Asheville Sept. 30.