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    March 7, 2023 Wilmington, N.C. RSS |

    Liberty University’s women’s beach volleyball team finished its stretch of four matches in four days strong, going 3-1 against Spartanburg Methodist College (S.C.), Erskine (S.C), UNC Wilmington, and Catawba (S.C.) in two separate duals tournaments in the Carolinas this past Thursday and Sunday.

    The Lady Flames opened the week by traveling to Due West, S.C., to battle the NJCAA Pioneers and the NCAA DII Flying Fleet on March 2.

    In in the opening series against SMC, Liberty blanked the Pioneers with a 5-0 victory, winning all except the last match in straight sets.

    Junior Lizzy Armstrong and senior Kaitlyn Holbrook opened the day for the Lady Flames with a 21-8, 21-7 win at the No. 1 seed, followed by the No. 2 pairing of juniors Cara Lecklider and Syd Metzker (21-10, 21-18), the No. 3 duo of freshman Grace Cropper and senior Heather Forton (21-11, 21-16), the No. 4 combination of senior Taylor Arnold and sophomore Jill Kater (21-16, 21-17), and the No. 5 tandem of sophomores Abbie Luke and Emma Taylor (21-3, 20-22, 15-6).

    Liberty continued its dominance later that afternoon, with a 3-2 victory over Erskine. After winning the first three matches by Armstrong and Holbrook (21-19. 21-16), Lecklider and Metzker (21-16, 21-10), and Cropper and Forton (21-19, 21-14); the Lady Flames dropped the last two, with Arnold and Kater falling, 19-21, 14-21, and Luke and Taylor bowing, 19-21, 14-21.

    “I saw a lot of improvement in our 2 pair (as) Syd and Cara worked hard to produce a clean offense and limit errors,” Lady Flames Head Coach Jessica Nelson said. “Heather and Grace, our 3 pair did the same, I’m impressed with their communication and adjustments throughout each match. Kaitlyn and Lizzy showed tremendous focus to execute against Erskine’s 1 pair as well. I was happy that our top three pairs won in two and didn’t extend their games to three sets.  Our turnaround from travel last weekend felt really fast, so I’m proud of this team for taking care of business and getting some wins on the road.”

    Following the strong showing, the Lady Flames traveled north to Wilmington, N.C., for bouts against the NCAA DI Seahawks and NCAA DII Indians on Sunday.

    In a tough battle against a powerful adversary, Liberty failed to win a match against host UNCW, losing 5-0. Liberty’s Sunday pairs consisted of Armstrong and Holbrook (21-23, 13-21), Cropper and Metzker (10-21, 9-21), Lecklider and Forton (11-21, 23-25), Arnold and Kater (10-21. 12-21), and Luke and Taylor (10-21, 17-21) all being swept.

    “Last weekend we played at an indoor facility, but this week we’ve gotten a lot of opportunities to work on executing with wind and other elements,” Nelson said. “Wilmington always does a good job of pressuring us with strong serves, and we were fighting for ball control and consistency in setting throughout both matches on Sunday. Against all our pairs, UNCW consistently ran a fast offense whether they were in or out of system, so we struggled to gain in runs.”

    Despite the defeat, Liberty dusted itself off and found its footing in a 4-1 triumph over the Indians with wins by Armstrong and Holbrook at No. 1 (21-18, 21-17), Cropper and Metzker at No. 2 (21-13, 21-12), Lecklider and Forton at No. 3 (21-11, 21-9), and Luke and Taylor at No. 5 (21-13, 21-14), with Arnold and Kater suffering the only setback in three sets, 14-21, 21-16, 13-15.

    The Lady Flames (3-5) will not play any matches over spring break before resuming play by traveling to Richmond, Ky., for the March 24-25 EKU Tournament, where they will face Austin Peay State (Tenn.), Ottawa (Kan.), Eastern Kentucky, and Tusculum (Tenn.).

    By Christian Shields/Staff Writer