Liberty serves 11th straight home victory

Home cookin’ — Lillie Happel (12) recorded her double-double with 12 kills and 11 digs. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

With one point left to play in Liberty’s three-set victory (25-17, 25-23, 25-18) over University of North Carolina Asheville, Coach Pinder called a timeout. Needing only one point to secure their second Big South Conference victory, Coach Pinder needed to set one thing straight.

“Honestly, I called the time-out to put more pressure on them (the team) to convert that last point. I wanted us to go down swinging. My thought before the timeout was that I wanted us going out of here not them giving us the point, but us earning it and feeling that big swing at the right moment to end it,” Pinder said.

The big swing Coach Pinder hoped to end on came courtesy of freshman outside hitter Ansley Gebben.

“We made the right play and pushed the ball deep and then the ball came back over and we got a free ball to Ansley Gebben, the freshman that came in, and she just ripped the ball down the line,” Pinder said.

Kills came early and often for not only Gebben, but for sophomore Lillie Happel and junior Loren Thomas as well, with Happel earning 12 and Thomas nine. Happel, who also tallied 11 digs, recorded her second straight week with a double-double. Sophomore Jade Craycraft also recorded a double-double with 32 assists and 12 digs, giving Liberty two straight matches with two players in double digits in two categories.

In addition to her hitting, Loren Thomas logged another solid defensive outing. The reigning Big South Conference Defensive Player of the Week, she delivered five block assists. The defensive squad registered 6.5 team blocks while holding the visiting Bulldogs to a .139 hitting average.

“Coach has been telling me to work on blocking, with my hand positioning to get more blocks and help the team out more in that area,” Thomas said.

The Flames were especially effective Friday in lengthy rallies, taking the point in most of the longer volleys, as well as claiming the side out nearly two out of three times throughout the match.

“If you win those long rallies like that it can really change the momentum, you just got to go out and fight for touches and fight through the whole thing and when you win those you cheer in their face. That is the extra bonus,” Craycraft said.

Freshman Gabrielle Shipe stepped in and recorded 18 digs in place of starting libero Kelly Haseman, who remains out with a concussion. There is no word regarding Haseman’s return.

“You know, we got a new lineup and Kelly Haseman, our libero, is out with a concussion so we’ve got a freshman out there. This week we just talked a lot about fighting. It’s kind of been the theme all week. They came out tonight and really showed a lot of heart, especially with a lot of youth out there,” Craycraft said.

The win marks the 11th consecutive victory for the Flames in the Vines Center.

“As a team it’s just been a great honor to play on our home court with home advantage. We’re trying our best and winning as many matches as we can, but I feel like God is going to take us really far,” Gebben said.

Liberty will return to the Vines Center Oct. 11 to take on Virginia Commonwealth University.

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