LYNCHBURG, Va. - Addison Kaderli and Rachel Smith carried Charleston Southern through the deciding fifth set as the Buccaneers topped host Liberty in the Big South Conference regular season finale on Saturday afternoon at Liberty Christian Academy, 21-25, 25-20, 20-25, 25-20, 15-13.
CSU led 8-6 at the crossover in the fifth set following Brooke Monssen's 15th kill of the match. The Bucs went up three points late at 10-7 following a Kylie Klein kill before the Flames rallied back. The two teams tied the fifth frame up at 11-11, 12-12, and 13-13 with Kaderli connecting on a kill to knot the frame up for the final time. Smith followed the Kaderli kill to put the Bucs at set point before a Liberty attack error ended the match in favor of CSU.
The Bucs (13-19, 8-8) finished the regular season with a .500 record in Big South Conference play following the season split against the Flames. The victory snapped a three-match skid and sets CSU up as the projected #5-seed in next week's Big South Volleyball Championships hosted in the Vines Center at Liberty.
Monssen finished with a team-high 15 kills, nine blocks, and a .244 hitting percentage as the Buccaneers bounced back from a tough first set to hit .247 as a team against the Flames. Connor Malone added 13 kills and six blocks at the net, while Klein finished with nine kills and seven blocks in the win. CSU combined for 14.0 total blocks in the contest with five coming in the final two sets in the Bucs' win.
Smith, in her first extended action since suffering an injury on October 29 at Campbell, led the Bucs with 28 assists. She added eight digs in the win. Madison Martin led the Bucs' back line with 18 digs and added three aces.
Leah Clayton led Liberty's (16-12, 11-5) offense with 25 kills, while Anna Gragg (15) and Gabrielle Vess (10) were also in double-digits on the afternoon. Anna Willey set up the LU offense with 46 assists. Michelle Melendez was the defensive leader with 20 digs.
Clayton came out swinging for the Flames in the first set as the freshman outside hitter recorded seven kills to pace Liberty to the 25-21 set win. The Bucs struggled from the floor, hitting .000 as a team in the set, but kept the frame close throughout. CSU led 16-12 following a Martin ace before Clayton took over. The LU outside hitter connected on five kills to spark a Flames' 13-5 run that ended the frame.
Monssen connected on five kills and paced the Bucs with four blocks in the second set to even the match at 1-1 following CSU's 25-20 set win. Malone broke a late 19-19 tie with a kill to give CSU the late lead. Taylor Allman added a pair of aces to put CSU ahead 24-19. Following a ball-handling error, Monssen capped the set with a kill to send the teams into the break.
Clayton paced the Flames in the third set with eight kills as Liberty took the 2-1 lead following the 25-20 set win. Liberty built a 15-8 lead midway through the frame and held off a late CSU rally in taking the set.
Monssen and Malone combined for nine kills as CSU hit .400 in the fourth set to send the match to the fifth. Monssen's fourth kill of the set gave CSU an 18-13 lead in the frame as the Bucs rode the momentum in building a five-point advantage. CSU went ahead 23-18 following back-to-back Malone kills and Monssen sealed the win late.
Charleston Southern will await the release of the 2016 Big South Volleyball Championships field for the time, date, and opponent of next week's volleyball tournament quarterfinal round.