Flames remain atop Big South, beating rival Coastal

For fans that arrived one set late, Friday’s volleyball game against rival Coastal Carolina must have appeared terribly one sided. For those who were present from the sound of the National Anthem, it was a totally different ball game.

Cruising along — Lillie Happel (12) and Lady Flames continue their dominance of the Big South with victory over rival Coastal Carolina. Photo credit: Chris Mabes

The Homecoming crowd was on its feet for the set point for more than 10 minutes as neither team would give in, en route to Liberty’s longest set of the 2011 season. The duel pitted two rival coaching staffs against each other, with Liberty’s eighth year coach Shane Pinder against Coastal’s 13th year coach Kristen Bauer.

Both coaches called on every weapon at their disposal in set one, using the full allotment of substitutes. Coach Pinder, paced the sidelines as his youth-laden team fought hard against an older Coastal squad. The visiting Chanticleers claimed the thrilling first set 30-28.

“It’s almost like they smacked us in the mouth. I asked them in the huddle, ‘What are you going to do with this?’ They came in here and took the first set, and you gave it away. This moment right here could define your season. You need to (decide) whether you’re going to fight or not,” Coach Pinder said.

The decision to fight was an easy one for Erica Manor, who set a career mark with six blocks, including three solo. “We bring a little extra for this game every year. Coastal is a big rival and we always look to play our hardest,” Manor said.

“I did notice a different energy against them and obviously the ‘Beat Coastal’ T-shirts say a lot,” Melissa Racz said.

Racz also set a career high Friday putting down 10 kills, breaking a personal best set earlier in the week against Campbell.

Set two was much like the first, with each set including six lead changes. Ansley Gebben led the charge contributing five kills while hitting .444 in the second set. “We refocused mentally and got back out there and showed them that we aren’t leaving, we’re staying here and playing,” Gebben said.

The Lady Flames threw a counter punch in the second set winning 25-23. The third and fourth set belonged to the Flames as well, with the defense continuing its dominance at the net, posting another double digit blocking performance.

“We started to control the net in that second set … We really made some pretty good adjustments that got them uncomfortable and we took control,” Pinder said.

The Flames won the third set 25-13 and fourth 25-18 to claim a 3-1 victory, moving their Big South record to 5-1. Liberty will return to the Vines Center Oct. 28 to take on Radford University.

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