DURHAM, N.C. – After downing host N.C. Central in four sets (25-14, 19-25, 25-17, 25-16) Friday, the UNCG volleyball team rallied from a 2-0 deficit to knock off defending Big South champion and preseason favorite Liberty 3-2 (15-25, 23-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-13) at the North Carolina Central Volleyball Invitational inside McDougald-McClendon Gymnasium.
"This was a great day of volleyball for us," head coach Patrick Nicholas said. "Beating a team in Liberty, who was picked to win its league and played really well in the NCAA Tournament last year, is huge for us - especially after trailing 2-0."
Senior setter Ari Lysacek produced the Spartans' first double-double of the season against the Flames, tallying 44 assists to go along with 12 digs. She almost had a triple-double, putting down nine kills as well. The outside hitter tandem of junior Karrian Chambers and freshman Lauren Betlach carried the offensive load, combining for 33 kills on 77 attempts with just nine errors between them. Additionally, junior Kellie Orewiler, the reigning Southern Conference Libero of the Year, corralled 24 digs to lead three UNCG players in double figures as freshman Katherine Santiago picked up 10 to go along with Lysacek's 12.
For the second-straight match, the Spartans hit efficiently, recording 63 kills on 162 attempts while committing just 23 errors for a .247 mark. UNCG also held the upper hand in digs (75-69) and total blocks (7.0-3.0).
The Spartans jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead when Lysacek put down a kill, but Liberty fought back and would put together a 12-4 run to push in front on a Morgan Freeman attack error. UNCG would pull within 13-10, but the Flames responded with four-straight points to force a Spartan timeout at 17-10. UNCG could not recover, dropping the set 25-15.
Caroline Douglas gave Liberty a quick 5-1 advantage in the second frame before a Chambers kill knotted the score at seven. Betlach kept the Spartans in front by a point at 15-14 with a kill later in the interval, but Douglas made sure the Flames would reach 20 first, posting a kill to put her squad in front by a pair of points. Becca Haraf gave Liberty its first set point at 24-20 via a service ace, but UNCG answered with three straight to make the Flames use both of their allotted timeouts. Despite the rally, Liberty used an Ansley Gebben kill to hold off the Spartans and take a 2-0 match lead.
UNCG blitzed the Flames at the start of the third set, scoring nine of the first 12 points to force a timeout. Liberty would respond, however, pulling to within 13-7 on a Haley Jeffcoat service ace. The Spartans stayed comfortably in front, 18-10, when the Flames committed an attack error, but a Kendall Rollins kill capped a 7-2 run and made the scoreline 20-17. Liberty drew to within two at 21-19, but UNCG scored four of the last six points of the frame to stay alive in the match.
The Spartans used their first timeout of the fourth set with the score deadlocked at nine, but UNCG forced a timeout from its opponent leading 15-13. A Haley ace tied the frame at 17 before the Spartans built a 21-18 advantage on a Flame miscue. Liberty could come no closer than two the rest of the way as UNCG forced a deciding set.
The Flames scored the first two points of the fifth interval, but the Spartans buckled down and made Liberty take a timeout when a Kelsey Sidney solo block put UNCG in front, 10-6. Liberty responded with four consecutive scores to tie the set at 10, however, Betlach gave the Spartans the lead back with a kill. The teams traded points until, with each team at 13, kills by redshirt junior Olivia Humphries and Betlach sealed the match for UNCG.
In the win over the Eagles, Humphries paced the Spartan offense with 10 kills while Orewiler racked up 11 digs to lead the back-row effort. Humphries committed just two attack errors on 16 attempts to finish with a .500 mark in her first match since the 2010 season. Lysacek put in a solid all-around performance, tallying 26 assists to go along with seven digs and four service aces.
The Spartans ended up with a .262 hitting mark with 39 kills to go along with 11 aces. UNCG also topped N.C. Central in digs by a 46-38 count and total blocks to the tune of 4.0-2.0.
Lysacek's ace in the first set put the Spartans in front 8-1 and they did not look back, cruising to a 25-14 frame win.
The Eagles responded in the second interval, using a Christine Anthony ace to move in front, 10-5. UNCG rallied, making the score 17-14 in favor of the home team – which used a timeout. The Spartans made it a one-point affair on a N.C. Central attack error at 17-16, but scored just three points the rest of the frame, allowing the Eagles to knot the match at one set apiece.
The third interval was tight throughout the beginning, but with the score tied at nine, UNCG went on a significant scoring run, taking a 20-12 advantage which all but put the set away. N.C. Central could come no closer than seven as the Spartans clinched the third frame by a 25-17 score.
The home team secured the first two points of the fourth set, but a subsequent Betlach ace saw the visitors take a 9-5 lead which was accompanied by an Eagle timeout. It would prove fruitless as UNCG did not look back – clinching the match by a 25-16 score.
The Spartans close the weekend Saturday with a match against Hampton. First serve is slated for 11 a.m.