ROCK HILL, SC – Four Eagles recorded double-digit kills Saturday as the Winthrop volleyball team overcame a two-set deficit to upend the Liberty Flames inside the Winthrop Coliseum.
With the victory the Eagles improved to 12-11 overall and 3-6 in the Big South while Liberty fell to 6-16 overall and 5-4 in the conference.
Winthrop played well in the first set, but couldn’t muster enough momentum to overtake the Flames. After a quick 4-1 lead by Liberty, the Eagles battled back to tie the set at 9-9. Winthrop took its first lead of the set at 16-15 and with a 19-17 advantage, forced Liberty to take a timeout. Liberty then went on an 8-3 run to win the first set 25-22.
The Eagles had another strong showing through most of the second set only to fall apart in the end. Liberty led for the large majority of the second set but Winthrop took its first lead at 19-18 and continued to lead at 23-21, forcing the Flames to take a timeout. After the timeout Winthrop didn’t score another point as Liberty took the final four points to win the second set 25-23.
Winthrop came out very strong to start the third set, jumping out to a quick 4-0 advantage. The Eagles maintained their lead until the Flames tied the game at 15-15. Winthrop quickly regained its lead at 19-17 and the teams then traded points and the Eagles came away with a set point at 24-23. The Flames fought off the set point, but could only do so once as the Eagles took the next two points to take the third set 26-24.
The fourth set showed a very strong performance by the Eagles. Winthrop only trailed briefly at 2-1 and then dominated the set. The Eagles took a 14-9 advantage over the Flames, forcing Liberty to take a timeout. The break didn’t help the Flames as Winthrop increased its lead to 21-13, when Liberty took its second timeout of the set. Again, the Eagles held strong and took the fourth set 25-16.
With the support of the Eagle faithful behind them, the Eagles used a 7-1 run early in the fifth set to open a 10-4 advantage over the Flames. Liberty battled back to get within three at 12-9, but couldn’t get any closer as the Eagles held on for the 15-10 fifth-set victory.
Irene Ojukwu led all hitters with 18 kills and grabbed a double-double by adding 14 digs. Alina Sopizhuk tallied 17 kills in only three sets played and also finished with a double-double, adding 11 digs. Emma Weakland had a season-high 13 kills while Rachel Lenz added 12. Jessie Vicic notched a double-double with 62 assists and 19 digs while Maria Volstad contributed 18 digs.
Lillie Happel led the Flames with 16 kills while Caroline Douglas added 12. Jade Craycraft finished with 39 assists while Gabrielle Shipe finished with 20 digs.
The Eagles will return to the court next Saturday at 2 p.m. on the road at Charleston Southern.