Lady Flames volleyball team breaks even with Florida International Panthers

The Liberty women’s volleyball team welcomed Florida International University to its home court in Liberty Arena on Oct.  20. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Flames opted for pink jerseys. Many fans joined in sporting their pink attire, including the first 150 fans who received a free pair of pink sunglasses. Before the game, each athlete also held “I stand up for…” signs which included the names of those currently fighting breast cancer. After the touching ceremony, both teams took to the court for a back and forth battle. 

In set one, Liberty started on the offense by breaking through FIU’s blocks. Junior outside hitter Kate Phillips and junior middle hitter Madison Blane were able to accrue many kills. Liberty was unmatched in its energy, giving them a substantial lead over the Panthers during the entire duration of the set. The Flames took the first set 25-16. 

FIU burst into set two with energy — however, the Flames did not back down. With two aggressive offenses, a clear lead wasn’t established all the way to the final point. After the Panthers lost on a challenge of the game point, the Flames took the close set 26-24. 

In the third set, Liberty struggled to work through tough blocks by the Panthers. The Flames continued to swing, but FIU’s strong defense won this set. 

“(FIU) made adjustments very well,” Liberty Head Coach Trevor Johnson said. 

Finally, in the fourth set, Liberty found its way through some tough blocks by the Panthers and soared ahead.  

“Our passing was awesome all night,” Blane said. “It took a little bit to crank up our offense because their block was making really good adjustments on us. Once we started to just pick the lock and find what worked, they were just nails all night.” 

Blane’s kills sent the bench into an uproar as Liberty started to take the lead. The Flames’ energy continued to rise as they found their rhythm at the net. While FIU continued to fight back, the Flames put their blocks up and barred the Panthers from capitalizing at the net. At match point, Phillips tipped a short ball over the net, allowing the Flames to defeat FIU 3-1 for the day.  

 “I’m proud of our fight and weathering the storm, especially in the third set,” Johnson said. “And our response in the fourth was awesome.”  

Blane, Phillips and senior Kamryn Bacus finished the game with 15 kills each. For Bacus, this meant she reached 1,000 total career kills. 

On Saturday, these two opponents faced each other again in Liberty Arena.  

From set one, both teams brought energy to the court. FIU led in points for most of the first set, but not without a fight from the Flames. Blane continued to find her way through Panther blocks and sent the Liberty bench into an uproar. After a back and forth set, Liberty fell short in a close game, 23-25.  

Liberty brought intense blocking and offensive pushes in set two, but FIU continued to adjust and respond the same. The set consisted of long volleys and two teams scrapping for each point. Even with the hard fight, Liberty lost another tight battle, 22-25.  

FIU continued to put up some solid blocks that were hard for Liberty to break through, but Liberty did not give up its fight and pushed to find its way.  

“We let them go on some runs,” Bacus said. “We were constantly trying to claw our way back into the game. But we had some girls come in that brought a lot of energy and executed well.” 

Bacus saw a noticeable energy boost brought from sophomore Brooke Elliott and freshman Charli Morris when they entered the court in the middle of set three — something Johnson took notice of as well. 

“Charlie and Brooke show up every day and work hard,” Johnson said. “They make our team better.

While off the court, Elliott leads the charge and the bench chants midgame. Throughout the second match of the series, Elliott was able to acquire four kills with a .326 hitting percentage. 

“It’s a testament to her hard work,” Johnson said.

Liberty’s grit and drive kept it in this close match and gave the Lady Flames a lead toward the final points of the set. However, FIU did not give up and sealed the win. Liberty lost the third and final set, 22-25. 

“Winning is hard,” Johnson said. “A lot of things have to go right. It wasn’t a lack of effort or grittiness.” 

Liberty will travel next to Huntsville, Texas for another two-game series against Sam Houston. The games will be televised on ESPN+ on Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 28 at 1 p.m.

Garman is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion

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