Liberty blocks Lady Chants’ quest for NCAA tourney bid

No. 1 Liberty defeated No. 2 Coastal Carolina, 3-1, to win the 2012 Big South Volleyball Championship on Sunday at Paul Porter Arena on the campus of Gardner-Webb University.

Liberty (25-7) wins its seventh Big South Championship and captures the Big South’s automatic bid to the NCAA Volleyball Championship.  Coastal Carolina ends its season at 14-14.

The Lady Flames win their seventh Big South Volleyball championship, extending their Conference record, and is the first back-to-back champion since the squad won in 2007 and 2008.  It is the fourth title under head coach Shane Pinder, the second-most championships for a head coach in League history.  Liberty also clinches its seventh NCAA Tournament appearance.

“Coastal had a great game plan and played really well,” said Liberty Head Coach Shane Pinder. “Our kids just showed the heart of a champion and made plays when we needed to make them.”

Gabriella Horvath spearheaded Coastal’s attack in the losing effort.  She had 11 kills, 13 digs and one block.  Liberty was led by Caroline Douglas, who had 19 kills with a .304 hitting percentage.  Liberty’s Jade Craycraft was named Tournament MVP after recording a total of 106 assists with a 10.60 assists per game.  She also posted 25 digs, 16 kills and eight blocks.

Liberty won the match after winning the fourth set, 25-23.  The two teams battled back and forth to start the set.  Hitting errors by the Chants and a Lillie Happel kill gave the Lady Flames an 8-4 lead.  Kindra Bailey tried to spark Coastal’s attack with a kill.  Liberty shifted momentum back its way with a kill by Douglas.   Coastal scored seven unanswered point to battle back to 18-19.  A big block by Loren Thomas extended Liberty’s lead by two points but Coastal responded with a service ace by Jamie DiMaggio.  Douglas found the floor twice, securing the match for the Lady Flames.

Liberty won the third set, 25-21 and had a 2-1 set advantage.  Liberty raced to a 5-0 lead to start the third set.  Nagy tried to jumpstart the Chants’ offense with some strong swings.  Coastal battled back and cut Liberty’s lead down to 19-18.  The Chanticleers committed errors to give Liberty set point at 24-21.  Liberty ended the set off an ace from Becca Haraf.

Liberty took the first set, 25-22 for the 1-0 lead.  An ace from Ansley Gebben put the Flames up 9-6.  Coastal Carolina fought to take the lead at 17-15 but Chanticleer mistakes allowed Liberty to tie the set, 17-17.  A kill by Happel put the Lady Flames back up at 19-18.  The Chants regained the lead at 20-19 off a kill by Bailey.  Liberty closed out the set with a 3-0 run.

Coastal tied the match 1-1 by winning the second set. Coastal jumped to an early lead with big swings from Eszter Nagy and Bailey.  Liberty utilized blocking to take control of the set at 12-11, while attack errors from Coastal allowed the Lady Flames to extend its lead.  The Chanticleers rallied back and a service ace from DiMaggio tied the set at 22-22.  The Chants took a 24-23 lead off a Nagy kill.  Both teams fought off set points, but a kill by Coastal’s Meghan Laffin ended the set, 29-27.

“Everybody worked hard this season, and they had a great year,” Coastal Carolina Head Coach Jozsef Forman. “We have start now prepping for next season.  Once again congratulations to Liberty and I wish them luck in the NCAA tournament.”

 All-Tournament Team

Jade Craycraft, S, Jr., Liberty (Tournament MVP)
Rachel Wells, DS/L, Jr., UNC Asheville
Eszter Nagy, MB, Fr., Coastal Carolina
Caroline Douglas, OH, R-Fr., Liberty
Jenna Orner, Libero, So., Coastal Carolina
Loren Thomas, MB, Sr., Liberty
Presley Mabrey, OH, Sr., Presbyterian College

Photo by Joel Beachum

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