CHARLESTON, S.C. - Charleston Southern was unable to hold off the Liberty comeback despite 20 kills by CSU's Sydney Tracy as the Lady Flames topped the Lady Bucs on Friday evening inside the Buccaneer Field House, 25-22, 21-25, 23-25, 25-17, 15-5.
With the match evened at two sets apiece, Liberty (15-6, 5-1 BSC) jumped out to an early lead in the deciding fifth set and scored the final six points of the frame to hand Charleston Southern (9-14, 3-3 BSC) just the Lady Bucs second five-set loss on the season.
"I liked the aggressiveness we showed, particularly in the early going and I'm very proud of the effort we showed today," commented head coach Al Givens on the team's fight throughout the match. "We had an opportunity to control the match with the victory in the third set, but our passing broke down a little bit against a very, very good Liberty team and our mentality changed more toward trying not to lose the match instead of playing to win and it carried over into the fifth set."
Tracy led the Lady Bucs with a season-high 20 kills in the contest, hitting .348 from the floor in the contest in front of the CSU fans. Kayla Klinger (15) and Meredith Parrott (11) were also in double-digits in kills as Charleston Southern hit .181 from the floor in the loss.
Carolina Douglas led Liberty with a match-high 21 kills, hitting .404 from the floor, while Loren Thomas (12) and Monica Johnson (11) were also in double-digits for the visiting Flames who win their third consecutive five-set match in Charleston dating back to the 2009 season.
Liberty jumped out to the early lead in the first set, recording four of the first six points as Jade Craycraft recorded an early kill for the Flames, but Charleston Southern battled back to even the match at five on a Klinger point as the teams battled through 10 ties and three lead changes in the first frame. Neither team was able to build more than a three-point advantage in the set as the teams tied it up at 22-apiece following a Liberty service error. Johnson, however, gave the Flames the final push with a kill as Liberty was aided by a block by Thomas and Johnson and a CSU ball-handling error to take the first set, 25-22.
The second set was even more tightly contested as the teams went through 14 ties and four lead changes in the set with neither team taking more than a two-point advantage until late in the frame. Liberty's Thomas led the way for both teams with six kills in the set, but Tracy gave the Lady Bucs the late spark with three kills among the final five points, including the set winner to even the match as CSU took the second set, 25-21.
Charleston Southern broke open the third set early, using a pair of mini-runs to build a 12-7 lead following a solo block by Erin LaVenice. CSU held on to the lead at 14-11 following a LaVenice kill, but Liberty rallied back to take their first lead of the frame at 16-14 following a 5-0 run capped by an Ansley Gebben solo block. CSU rallied back tying the set up three times before going ahead late 24-23 on a Davis and Klinger combined block and Klinger clinched the set win with a kill to give CSU the 2-1 lead.
Liberty came out gunning in the fourth set led by Douglas' seven kills in the set as the Lady Flames went ahead 11-5 in the in the frame. The lead held at 17-11 following a block by Thomas and Johnson and CSU fought back to put the set within four following one of Tracy's eight kills in the set, but Liberty closed out the frame with a 5-1 run to even the match at two sets apiece.
In the deciding fifth set, Liberty hit .500 from the floor in the frame, building an 8-4 lead following a Douglas and Thomas block as the teams switched sides on the court. Following Tracy's 20th kill of the night, Gabrielle Shipe served the visiting Flames home with back-to-back service aces and Douglas recorded back-to-back kills as Liberty won the final set, 15-5.
The teams combined for 22 blocks and 167 digs in the five set match, with Shipe leading the way for Liberty with 29 of the Lady Flames 82 digs, while Ashley Higginbothem led CSU with 23 of the team's 85 digs on the night. Kendle Rollins led the visiting Flames at the net with seven total blocks, while Davis led CSU with four blocks on the night.
CSU's Kirsten Struksnes and Liberty's Craycraft set up their teams' respective offensive attacks on the day as each setter finished the match with 56 set assists.
"We're very close to being a very good team," said Givens about the team's performance in the match. "We had a lot more hitting errors tonight than we've usually had this season, but we'll have to put this game behind us as we're going to have our hands full with Radford tomorrow night. We'll regroup and get back it tomorrow evening."
Charleston Southern remains at home as CSU welcomes Radford University to the Buccaneer Field House on Saturday, October 13th, with first serve between the Lady Bucs and the Highlanders coming at 6 p.m. Liberty travels to Conway, S.C. to take on Coastal Carolina tomorrow morning, with first serve coming at 11:30 a.m.