Loren Thomas led the Lady Flames with a season-high nine blocks in a 3-1 win over William & Mary, Tuesday at the Vines Center.
On the strength of an impressive defensive effort, the Liberty volleyball team picked up a 3-1 (25-21, 19-25, 26-24, 25-21) win over the visiting William & Mary Tribe on Tuesday at the Vines Center. With the win, the Lady Flames improve to 3-1 on the season, claiming victory in their home opener for the fourth year in a row. William & Mary falls to 1-3 with the loss. Liberty totaled 14.5 team blocks, its most since posting 17 blocks at Winthrop on Oct. 21, 2011. The Tribe held a slight edge in digs, 69-67, and led the Lady Flames by 14 in kills. Errors proved costly for the visitors, however as they committed 28 attack errors and 12 service errors. Caroline Douglas led the Lady Flames with 12 kills and added four blocks, while Ansley Gebben chipped in nine kills and five blocks. Loren Thomas totaled a season-high nine blocks, and Jade Craycraft recorded 30 assists, seven kills and four blocks. Gabrielle Shipe collected a career-high 22 digs, while Lillie Happel registered 13 digs and Becca Haraf had 11. For the Tribe, Paulette Grand Pre (13 kills, 15 digs) and Dessi Koleva (12 kills, 13 digs) both recorded double-doubles. Molly Krull led all players with 36 assists, and Liz Brown added 12 kills. The Lady Flames led from 3-2 until the end of set one, building an 18-10 lead thanks to an 11-5 run that saw a pair of Craycraft kills and two block assists from Thomas. Trailing 21-13, William & Mary then staged an 8-3 run to draw to within three, 24-21, before Caroline Douglas ended the first set with a kill. William & Mary suffered from errors, both forced, in the form of four Liberty blocks, and unforced in the form of five service errors, during set one. The Tribe quickly gained control of the second set, pushing its lead to 19-10 with an 11-3 run during which Krull and Carolyn Albright had two kills apiece. Liberty inched back into the set, but could get no closer than five points, which came at 24-19 on an Allie Reynolds ace. Brown ended set two, 25-19, with a kill to knot the match. The Tribe hit .316 during set two, compared to .179 for the Lady Flames. The Lady Flames and Tribe played a back-and-forth third set, one which included nine ties and four lead changes. William & Mary held a 15-11 lead midway through the set, but Liberty then went on an 11-4 run to regain the lead at 22-19. Craycraft figured in on three blocks and had two kills during Liberty's run. Liberty led, 24-21, until the Tribe rallied to tie it at 24-24, and Lillie Happel sent down a kill for a 26-24 Lady Flames win and a 2-1 match lead. Liberty outhit William & Mary, .250 to .189, in set three, and totaled 4.5 team blocks during the session as well. The Lady Flames took control of set four with a 10-3 run that turned a 10-10 tie into a 20-13 Lady Flames lead. Liberty totaled three blocks during the run, including two Gebben-Thomas rejections. A pair of Liberty miscues brought the Tribe to within two, 21-19, but Craycraft sent down a kill to end the visitors' rally, and later assisted on Douglas' match-winning kill. Liberty had five team blocks in the fourth set, holding the Tribe to an .087 hitting percentage. Liberty will play its next nine matches away from Lynchburg, starting with three contests at the Holiday Inn Select/UCF Classic, held Friday and Saturday in Orlando, Fla., the hometown of Lady Flames teammates Thomas, Shipe, Gebben.