Liberty opened the 2016 season by taking on the Pitt Panthers to begin the Kennesaw State Invitational. The Panthers held off the Lady Flames, 28-26, in set three, to seal a 3-0 (25-15, 25-15, 28-26) sweep, Friday at KSU Convocation Center.
Prior to Friday, Liberty (0-1) had won its season opener each of the last two seasons in a row. Pitt (1-0) begins its campaign with a victory in the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
Pitt connected for a .202 hitting percentage, while 13 Panther blocks helped hold the Lady Flames to a -.112 (24-35-98) night. Liberty served up six aces, compared to three for Pitt, while the Lady Flames held a 32-29 edge in digs.
Stephanie Williams and Maria Genitsaridi scored seven kills each for Pitt to lead all players, while Jenna Potts recorded a match-high seven blocks and Layne Van Buskirk posted six rejections.
Leah Clayton paced Liberty with six kills and nine digs, while Casey Goodwin totaled five kills and two aces. Sirena Vorster (two blocks, two aces) was tied for the team lead in both blocks and aces. Anna Willey dished out a team-best 11 assists, while Hannah Morris recorded eight assists and two blocks.
The Panthers jumped out to a 9-1 lead in set one, on the way to a 25-15 victory. Both teams struggled on the attack, as Liberty scored six kills against 11 errors and Pitt hit just .107. Van Buskirk assisted on three out of Pitt's four blocks during the opening session.
In set two, Pitt broke open a tight contest with an early 6-0 run, good for a 16-7 lead. The Panthers entered intermission leading the match, 2-0, after posting an identical 25-15 set-two score. Liberty served up three aces during the second stanza, but Pitt countered with a .417 hitting percentage and four blocks.
Liberty overcame a pair of early four-point deficits in the third set, taking the lead, 9-8, after Gabrielle Vess closed out a 5-0 run. The Panthers took their second timeout following an error that made it 15-11, Liberty. A Hannah Morris kill gave Liberty a 21-18 cushion, before Pitt rallied to take a 23-22 lead. Both teams earned two set-point tries, before the Panthers cashed in at 28-26 to end the sweep.
Liberty will play two matches tomorrow to finish out play at the Kennesaw State Invitational. The Lady Flames take on the host Kennesaw State Owls at noon before facing Missouri at 5:30 p.m.