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LU Reaches Championship Match with 3-0 Sweep

November 22, 2008  Asheville, N.C.  RSS
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Ashley Webber contributed a match-high seven blocks to Liberty's 3-0 Big South Volleyball Championship semifinal sweep of UNC Asheville.

Ashley Webber contributed a match-high seven blocks to Liberty's 3-0 Big South Volleyball Championship semifinal sweep of UNC Asheville.

A strong defensive effort propelled No. 1 seed Liberty into its second consecutive Big South Volleyball Championship title match appearance, Saturday evening at the Justice Center in Asheville, N.C. The Lady Flames totaled 69 digs and 10 blocks in a 3-0 (25-23, 25-21, 25-20) semifinal triumph over the host team, No. 4 seed UNC Asheville.

The Lady Flames are now 24-8 on the season after recording their fourth straight 3-0 sweep. Liberty was able to avenge a 3-2 setback at UNC Asheville on Nov. 7 and win the season series with the Bulldogs, two matches to one.

Liberty will square off with No. 3 seed Coastal Carolina in the championship match, Sunday at 2 p.m. The Chanticleers held off No. 2 seed High Point in a hard-fought five-set semifinal tilt, earlier Saturday evening.

UNC Asheville had been one of the conference's hottest teams down the stretch, winning seven of their last nine matches entering Saturday's semifinal tilt. Despite Kelsey Benorden's match-high 13 kills, the Bulldogs close out their 2008 season with a 17-14 record.

The home team built a 12-7 advantage during set one, after setter Kaitlyn McDaniel sparked a 7-2 surge with three assists, a kill and a service ace. Liberty responded with five straight points, including two kills and a block by Ashley Webber (Sr., MB, Lakeside, Calif.), evening the score at 12 apiece.

However, the Lady Flames could not get over the hump until Kallie Corbin's (Jr., S, Beaverton, Ore.) ace made the score 23-22, Liberty. Her unreturned serve was part of Liberty's set-closing 5-1 surge. Karyl Bacon (So., OH/DS, Temecula, Calif.) finished out a hard-fought 25-23 Lady Flame decision with a kill.

Liberty setter Corbin almost posted a double-double in the first stanza alone, tallying 11 assists and eight of the Lady Flames' 29 digs. Meanwhile, Webber had a hand in all four of Liberty's blocks. Benorden led the way for UNC Asheville in set one, finishing with six kills and seven digs.

The Lady Flames ran out to a 7-1 lead at the outset of the second set, a burst which featured three kills and a block by junior Chelaine McCarty (MB, Houston, Ala.). UNC Asheville gradually climbed back into the match, and a 6-0 run lifted the Bulldogs to a late 20-17 advantage. Cindi Miller put down three straight kills during the surge.

Liberty halted the home team's momentum with a combined block by Corbin and Webber. The Lady Flames then finished off a 25-21 victory with an 8-1 run. For the second straight set, Bacon provided the decisive kill.

McCarty and Jessica Nelson (R-Sr., OH, Tokyo, Japan) paced the Lady Flames with four kills apiece in the middle frame. On the other side of the net, UNC Asheville was limited to a .047 attack percentage for the set.

The third and final set was the most competitive of the night, including 11 ties and six lead changes. The last deadlock came at 17-17, after a Miller kill for the Bulldogs. Nelson and Webber put down kills during Liberty's ensuing 3-0 burst, putting the Lady Flames on top for good. Fittingly, Bacon's kill wrapped up a 25-20 Liberty triumph in the third stanza, sending the Lady Flames into Sunday's title match.

Nicki Scripko (So., OH/RS, Fayetteville, N.C.) enjoyed her best offensive set of the contest in the third stanza, hitting .400 with six kills. Bacon added four kills on a .444 attack percentage, to go along with six digs. Miller came up with a set-high seven kills in a losing effort for the Bulldogs.

The Lady Flames totaled 16 more digs than the homestanding Bulldogs in the match, 69-53, putting four players in double digits. Leading all players on the defensive ledger was Corbin, with 17 digs and four blocks to complement her 37 assists. Nelson added 16 digs, narrowly missing a double-double with nine kills.

For the second straight day, Bacon recorded a double-double, as the outside hitter summed 10 kills and 13 digs. Classmate Scripko chipped in with a team-best 12 kills, eight digs and four blocks.

Libero Kelly Haseman (Fr., Three Rivers, Mich.) was the final Lady Flame to hit double digits in the dig category, with 11 digs. Webber also played a key role defensively, matching a season high with her match-best seven blocks. The senior from California is now tied with Theresa Bream for fifth place in Liberty history, with 314 rejections.

Benorden, a sophomore, completed a double-double for UNC Asheville with 11 digs. Meanwhile, Miller matched Benorden's total of 13 kills. Raquel Miotto led the Bulldogs with her 15 digs.

Liberty will be appearing in the championship match of the Big South Volleyball Championship for the eighth time in the Lady Flames' 18 seasons as a conference member. Liberty is seeking its fifth Big South title, which would tie Winthrop for the most in conference history. The Lady Flames are also aiming to claim back-to-back Big South championships for the first time.

Liberty Head Coach Shane Pinder
"We were able to get key points at key times in the match to get a win against a well-coached and solid UNC Asheville team. I thought we executed when we absolutely had to and our top players made big plays when they had to make them. It should be a great match tomorrow against Coastal Carolina. Coastal Carolina is playing very well right now and has been all year."

UNC Asheville Head Coach Julie Torbett
"We came out with a lot of energy and played so well in the first set, but we had a couple of things go wrong and we lost the set. I thought part of our problems stemmed from not having as much balance on offense as we could have. We blocked well, but our defense wasn't as good as it could have been. You also can't make eight service errors, including five in the third set, and expect to win. Liberty is a great team and it made the plays when it had to. It should be a great championship match tomorrow."