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Virginia Holds Off Liberty, 3-1

August 26, 2017  Charlottesville, Va.  RSS
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Gabrielle Vess led Liberty with 14 kills, Saturday.

Gabrielle Vess led Liberty with 14 kills, Saturday.

Virginia won a marathon second set to take a 2-0 lead over Liberty, and held off a furious Liberty rally, downing the Lady Flames in four hard-fought sets, 3-1 (25-21, 27-25, 21-25, 25-20), Saturday at Virginia's Memorial Gymnasium.

The Cavaliers improve to 2-0 at the Cavalier Classic, in advance of tonight's title match against Villanova. Liberty (0-2) will look for its first win of the season at 5 p.m. against Hofstra.

For the match, there were 34 ties and 15 lead changes. Virginia hit .186, compared to .158 for the Lady Flames. The hosts led in digs (76-63) and aces (6-3), while Liberty edged Virginia in blocks, 7-6.

Jelena Novakovic posted match highs with 16 kills, 20 digs, two aces and four blocks for Virginia. Sarah Billiard (13 kills) and Chino Anukwuem (11 kills) both reached double-figures in kills. Kelsey Miller collected 19 digs, while Alex Spencer corralled 16 digs.

Gabrielle Vess scored 14 kills for Liberty, pushing her over the 500-career-kill mark. Amaya Williams registered her first career double-double, dishing out 36 assists and collecting 10 digs. Sirena Vorster totaled eight kills, two aces and three blocks. Victoria Baptista collected 13 digs, while Margaret Latchford posted 12 digs.

Trailing, 13-10, in set one, Liberty went on a 4-0 run, as Vorster's ace gave the visitors a 14-13 lead. The Lady Flames led, 16-15, before a three-point run put Virginia ahead, 18-16. Vess narrowed the gap to 18-17 with a kill before UVA staged a 4-0 rally for a 22-17 advantage. Liberty chipped away, and drew to within 23-21 on a Vorster kill. However, the Cavaliers clinched the set by scoring the final two points.

Set two was as tightly-contested as it gets, with 21 ties and seven lead changes. Virginia broke a 21-all tie, with Billiard's kill making it 23-21. Casey Goodwin scored a kill, slicing the deficit in half, but a service error then gave Virginia a 24-22 lead. Liberty battled back to force extra volleyball, 24-24 when Vess scored down the line. The teams then traded the next three points, and a UVA block sealed the second session for the hosts, 27-25.

The Cavaliers outhit Liberty, .308-.226, in set two, led by six kills by Billiard. Errant serves were rampant, with Virginia recording seven service errors and Liberty hitting three serves out.

Virginia led set three, 6-2, but Liberty quickly turned the tables, gaining the lead at 11-8. The hosts tied it at 15-15, before Liberty surged to the finish, outscoring the Cavaliers 10-6, down the stretch to win, 25-21. Anna Gragg's set-clinching kill sent the match to a fourth set.

Liberty hit .235 in the third set, compared to .000 for UVA thanks in part to four Flames blocks. Vess scored five kills during set three.

The hosts went on a four-point run, featuring two Novakovic kills, to gain a 17-11 set-four lead. Virginia held the advantage at 22-15 before Liberty's 4-0 rally, as Gragg scored a kill to make it 22-19. However, the Cavaliers pulled away for the win, and Anukwuem's kill ended the set, 25-20.

Virginia outhit Liberty in set four, .273-.122. Anukwuem sent down six kills on nine swings during the final session.