Victory in Vines
Lady Flames stay undefeated in Big South with two wins
The dynamic duo of Jade and Sirena Vorster “killed” the Gardner-Webb Bulldogs volleyball team with a combined total of 29 kills at a .556 pace for the 3-1 (25-16, 25-15, 18-25, 25-19) win at home on Friday Oct. 2.
After a rocky pre-season coming off a six-game losing streak, Liberty carried the momentum from their Big South opening win against Radford into its game against the Bulldogs, advancing to 2-0 in the Big South and 6-8 for the season.
The Bulldogs capitalized on a few errors by the Flames early in the first set, leading 5-2. Regardless of the slow start, Liberty surged ahead with a 15-2 rally, aided by four kills from Sirena Vorster, to take the lead 17-7. After a series of consecutive kills, the Flames finished 25-16.
The majority of the second set remained neck-in-neck as the Bulldogs closed in, tying it at 14-14. The Flames remained patient and calculated, until Jade Vorster scored four kills, sparking a seven-point run for Liberty, outscoring the Bulldogs 11-1 to win 25-15.
Lacking some intensity after the intermission, Liberty fell to Gardner-Webb 6-1 at the beginning of the third set. The Flames kept fighting but continued to trail the Bulldogs throughout the set, eventually losing 25-18.
The fourth set was a hard fought battle resulting in back and forth leads. Jade Vorster helped pick up the pace with three kills and a block, increasing the intensity on the court, which finally lead to breaking the 11-11 tie with another seven-point run.
As the Flames took the lead 18-12 in the fourth set, excitement filled the air as the crowd stood to their feet with hands in the air. Gardner-Webb caught up within five points, 22-17, before Liberty finished the final set 25-19 for the win. Jade Vorster performed a perfect set, hitting eight for eight while the Bulldogs recorded 13 kills in the set.
Liberty overshadowed Gardner-Webb with 59 kills hitting a .255 pace while the Bulldogs recorded 40 kills at a .124 pace. The Lady Flames led 75-58 in digs and 7-4 in aces, while the Bulldogs out blocked Liberty 7-6.
Regardless of the lack of intensity at the beginning of the game, Liberty remained tenacious and fought throughout each set even when they were not in the lead, Head Coach Shane Pinder said.
“Not every night are you going to play exactly how you want and as clean as you want, but the good teams find a way to get it done,” Pinder said. “I thought that’s what we showed tonight, even though the rhythm wasn’t what we wanted, they stayed together and kept working.”
Friday was a night for the books as Jade Vorster recorded a career high of 19 kills hitting .571, a match-high of four block assists and also notched her 400th career block. Her sister, Sophomore Sirena Vorster, added 10 kills hitting at a .529 pace, while Sophomore Anna Willey recorded a double-double setting a career high in both assists (48) and digs (13).
“That’s kind of a weird night, usually middles don’t get that many kills,” Jade Vorster said. “But it’s good it just means the setter and I are connecting, and the passers are doing their jobs so hopefully we’ll just keep that high and run with it.”
Liberty continued to advance in the Big South after edging out UNC Asheville 3-2 on Saturday, Oct. 3. This puts the Flames at 3-0 in the conference and 7-8 for the season as they take on VCU Tuesday, Oct. 6 at 6 p.m. in the Vines Center.
Lady Flames vs. UNC Asheville
On the very last play of the overtime set, sophomore Anna Willey already had 49 assists, which was one more than her career-high that she achieved the previous night against Gardner-Webb. Saturday Oct. 3 in the Vines Center, her collegiate career would reach another milestone as she assisted her teammate, senior Haley Jeffcoat, on the very last play to give the Lady Flames volleyball team its second win in as many days. This was Willey’s first collegiate career 50+ assist game.
Coming off a 3-1 victory against Gardner-Webb, Liberty’s Women’s Volleyball team faced another conference school in the Vines Center, UNC Asheville, who stepped into this matchup with a 2-0 Big South Conference record.
The Vines Center hosted 570 in attendance of both fans of the Bulldogs and Lady Flames.
Liberty began the game winning the first set 25-17, and the next set 20-25. In those two sets, the Bulldogs summed 17 errors to the Lady Flames’ seven. The energy that the Flames had after the first two sets would slip away in the third set, as the momentum swung into UNC Asheville’s favor.
“Even in the third set we were in control early, and a couple plays shifted the moment,” Pinder said. “It shifted quick and all of a sudden, we were on our heels for two sets.”
In the third set, a block error from Jeffcoat and a kill from UNC Asheville’s Cameron Pryor, who had three kills that set, brought the score to 5-8, Bulldogs. Pinder subsequently received a red card and the visiting team held on tightly to the reigns of momentum.
“There was a key moment on the third set … a couple exchanges on calls that helped shift the momentum,” Pinder said. “We just kind of reeled from there. You know what (though), it’s never on the refs. It’s about us, and us answering the moment.”
The fourth set held a game-high seven tied scores. Sirena Vorster had one of her two solo blocks in the brink of the Lady Flames high-energy push. She soon executed a kill to give Liberty a three-point margin at 20-17, causing UNC Asheville to call a timeout.
According to Sirena Vorster, the team talked a lot in pregame about blocking, knowing the hitter-tendencies and which way to throw their hands while the opponent attacks. Sirena Vorster led the team against UNC Asheville in blocks with 3.5.
After the timeout, the Bulldogs pulled away with eight points to one. Leading the Bulldogs to a 21-25 set victory, tying the game to two sets a camp.
In the fifth set, the Lady Flames pulled out the victory with 14 kills out of the 15 points. Jeffcoat dominated the set, spiking in five kills and Willey assisted on a game-high 12 points.
“We really had to refocus, and we had to shift the momentum,” Willey said. “(We) didn’t go in overthinking or overplaying. We had to start off strong that set and do the little things. I think the first two plays in the fifth set, the rallies were long, but we tried to not make errors and to let them make the errors.”
Friday night against Gardner-Webb, Willey collected her career-high in assists with 48. However, while facing UNC Asheville, the setter from Iowa earned her first collegiate game with 50+ assists.
“One thing I try to do is to mix it up, and not to rely too heavily on my middles, only my right sides, or only my outsides; just to have different people going at different times,” Willey said. “It keeps the blockers honest and it opens up for our hitters to have one-on-ones.”
She assisted on the final four points to give the ladies a victory. She, fortunately, was not the only player to break a milestone. Jeffcoat accumulated her first double-double.
Freshman Margaret Latchford picked up her career-best 31 digs. Sophomore Lindsay Foreman started the game and recorded a career-high 14 digs.
“I’m proud of her. It’s tough when you start out on the bench and you’re looking for moments to play and she was over there waiting,” Pinder said. “When you get out on the floor you’ve got to take advantage and do the things that keep you out there. Right now, she’s doing that.”
Liberty is now tied for first in the conference with Coastal Carolina, as the only undefeated teams in the conference.
“Today, they started just rallying each other and the energy went up. I think the defense sparked it. From there I think we just fought our tails off and won the victory,” Pinder said.
The Lady Flames will face Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Oct. 6 in Lynchburg as they hope to stay undefeated at home.
Britton is a sports reporter.
Castel is a sports reporter.