Lady Flames’ Young Core Struggles in First Games on Home Court
The Lady Flames volleyball team went 1-3 during the Liberty Invitational at Liberty Arena Sept. 10-11, falling to Old Dominion, Purdue Fort Wayne and Loyola Marymount but notching a win against Navy.
After a 3-0 start to the season, the Lady Flames hoped to extend their undefeated streak, but those hopes faded quickly after being defeated by Old Dominion to start the tournament.
The team rebounded, however, to defeat Navy in four sets to close the first day of the tournament.
Navy shot out of the gate, taking a six-point lead in the early parts of the first set. Liberty fought back, however, with incredible play at the net from sophomore Lydia Burts and an ace by Lilly Kruse. After being down 8-14, Liberty finished strong with a 25-22 win in the first set.
Navy rallied to win the second set, despite Burts’ seemingly unstoppable play. Both teams went back and forth the whole match, but Navy finally pulled away to get the 30-28 win.
Liberty started off the scoring in the third set with a kill from Kruse. The Lady Flames then proceeded to pull away from Navy, scoring six unanswered points to make the lead 10-5.
The Lady Flames continued to dominate the third set after their start. Senior Aspen Thompson floated to the net in a Michael Jordan-esque fashion play after play and Burts locked down the net with blocks. Kruse closed out the set with a kill to give the Lady Flames the last point, making the score 25-18.
After going up 2-1 in the match, the Lady Flames closed out the win by defeating Navy 25-22 in the final set.
Senior setter Amaya Williams said that the energy from the fans at Liberty Arena allowed the team to snag the win against Navy.
“This year is definitely a change from previous years … the amount of fans we had tonight [at the LMU match] and at the Navy game was huge compared to what we used to have,” Williams said. “Having that energy, even when we’re not doing well … brings us energy on the court and on the bench.”
After defeating Navy, the Lady Flames went into the second day of the tournament with all the momentum, but they fell to West-Coast powerhouse Purdue Fort Wayne in the fifth set.
Kennedi Sutter dominated in the loss, serving multiple aces as well as amassing 18 kills and 16 digs.
In the final match of the Liberty Invitational, the Lady Flames fell to the Loyola Marymount Lions, who went 4-0 on the weekend. Sutter shone again in the loss, leading the team in digs with 11. She also single-handedly propelled the Lady Flames to an 8-0 run with three aces.
Although the weekend did not yield the results hoped for, the team will look to improve with its young talent. Williams, one of only two seniors on the team, said she looks forward to the future even after going 1-3 during the tournament.
“The future is really bright for this team,” Williams said. “I feel like it can only go up from here.”
Leah Kodat, one of the five freshmen starters for the Lady Flames, spoke about how she thinks the freshman core will develop.
“I think it’s awesome to have a bunch of freshmen and young people around so we can learn and grow together, and work through the things now,” Kodat said. “So that when we are veterans here, we can just be absolutely amazing on the court.”
The Lady Flames volleyball team will travel next to Evansville, Indiana, Sept. 17-18 to face Evansville, Murray State and Cleveland State at the Evansville Tournament.
Palsgrove is a sports reporter. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronPalsgrove.