Michelle Melendez collected 13 digs in her final career match.
The No. 2 seed Lady Flames fell to No. 3 seed High Point in a tightly-contested five-set (25-22, 22-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-11) match in Saturday's second semifinal of the 2016 Big South Volleyball Championship at the Vines Center.
With the win, the Panthers (22-9) advance to tomorrow's championship match against No. 1 seed Radford. Tomorrow's final will take place at 4 p.m. and will air on ESPN3.com. The Lady Flames, competing in the conference semifinals for the first time since 2013, see their season end at 16-13.
For the match, both teams hit .193, with the Panthers holding a 67-61 advantage in kills. The Lady Flames led in digs (87-79), aces (3-2) and blocks (12-11), with their 87 digs being their most in a single conference tournament match under the current 25-point scoring system. Liberty committed 12 service errors, compared to six for High Point.
The Panthers' Molly Livingston recorded 17 kills and six blocks, while Katie Tylman scored 16 kills. Haley Barnes (11 kills, 15 digs), Abby Broadstreet (10 kills, 12 digs) and Jenna Smith (29 assists, 13 digs) all registered double-doubles. Megan Kennedy collected a match-high 20 digs.
Leah Clayton scored a career-high 26 kills and tied her career best with 19 digs. Her 26 kills were the most ever by a Lady Flame in a conference tournament match under the current 25-point scoring system. Anna Gragg contributed 10 kills and six blocks, while Anna Willey totaled season highs with 53 assists and 16 digs. Gabrielle Vess chipped in nine kills and 15 digs, while Margaret Latchford collected 19 digs. Michelle Melendez corralled 13 digs and served up two aces in her final career match.
Set one featured 14 ties and seven lead changes, as momentum went back and forth. The Lady Flames tied the set, 17-17, on a kill by Clayton. Livingston scored a pair of kills during a 5-2 High Point surge, as a Tylman kill made it 22-19. Tylman's kill later sealed set one, 25-22.
The opening set saw Liberty outhit High Point, .216-.209, behind four team blocks. Livingston scored six kills, while Clayton countered with five kills for the Lady Flames.
The Lady Flames quickly responded, breaking an 11-11 set-two tie with two kills by Gragg. After nine straight sideouts, Liberty got breathing room, taking a 22-17 lead on a block by Willey and Gragg. The Panthers drew to within two at 22-20, but got no closer, with Clayton scoring the set-clinching kill, 25-22.
During the second set, the hosts outhit their guests, .256-.064, while Clayton led all players with six kills.
High Point pulled away late in set three, leading 24-17 before Liberty's Sydney Morris scored a pair of kills. After a Panther attack error, Liberty's next serve was errant, giving High Point a 25-20 victory.
The Panthers hit .303 during the third session, led by a 5-of-6 attacking performance by Tylman. Clayton hit .500 with five kills, but the Lady Flames hit just .108 as a team.
Liberty led set four by as many as five points, 20-15, before High Point narrowed the gap to 21-20. The Lady Flames scored three out of the next four points, taking a 24-21 lead. Kills by Barnes and Tylman ensued, before Clayton scorched a kill to send the match to a fifth set.
The visitors led set five, 8-6, at the court change following a Tylman kill. A High Point error made it 8-7, and Liberty later trailed by just one, 10-9. The Panthers outscored the Lady Flames, 5-2, down the stretch to take the match and advance to tomorrow's final. High Point outhit Liberty, .400 to .111, in set five.