ORLANDO, Fla. - The Columbia Volleyball team dropped its first two matches of the 2012 season in the Holiday Inn Select/UCF Classic on Friday at The Venue. The Lions fell 3-0 to host University of Central Florida before later dropping a tough 3-1 decision to Liberty.
Columbia vs. UCF
In Columbia's showdown with UCF, the Lions fell 25-16, 25-15, 27-25 after a thrillingly close third set that was extended to extra points.
The first set was close in the beginning, as the contest was tied up at 9-9. The Lions stayed in the game trailing by one, 12-11, before UCF's Angelica Crump went on a roll with six straight kills en route to a 10-2 UCF run that left Columbia down 23-15. The Lions would score twice more in the set but were unable to overcome the Knights, as they fell 0-1 in the match.
The Lions struggled to come up with points in the second set as UCF quickly grabbed hold of an early 5-0 lead. The Knights stayed hot as they pushed their advantage to as much as 11, and in the end doubled up the Lions 16-8 in kills to take a 2-0 advantage on the match.
A nail biting third set showcased Columbia's intensity as the Lions fought to keep the series afloat. A kill by Heather Braunagel gave Columbia a 13-11 lead, but that would be the largest and last lead of the afternoon for the Lions.
The Knights went ahead but struggled to extend their lead to larger than four as the Lions stayed alive. A block by Kelsey Mussleman and Braunagel tied up score at 25-all as the set was pushed into extra points. Yet another Crump kill would be the deciding point of the day as the Knights came away with a 3-0 victory and earned their first win of the season.
Braunagel led the Lions with a .750 hitting percentage, making six kills with committing zero errors. Caitlin Brenton had a team-high eight kills and just one error for a .438 hitting percentage. Senior Megan Gaughn led the team with nine digs to go with four kills.
Columbia vs. Liberty
The Lions came out strong in their second game of the day with a 25-17 first set victory over Liberty, but the win would not come without a fight.
A neck-and-neck battle would start off the set, but not for long. Highlighted by a kill and a service ace from Atlanta Moye-McLaren, the Lions took off on a 4-2 run to give them a more comfortable 9-4 lead.
Liberty responded quickly with four straight points to tie things up, 9-9. Another close battle would ensue as each team alternated the lead several times before the Lions closed out the set with an 8-1 run to come away with their first set victory of the season.
The second set started off just as tough as Columbia and Liberty stayed locked together with neither squad able to widen the lead past two points.
However, the Flames scored four straight and took over 16-11, forcing Columbia to call a timeout.
Two consecutive kills by Brenton and one shortly after from Musselman left the Lions trailing by just 17-14. That would be the closest Columbia would get as Liberty exploded on an 8-2 spurt to even out the series. The final set score was 25-16.
In the third set, Liberty scored first and did not look back the rest of the way to take a 25-17 victory and a 2-1 advantage on the night. Columbia's Savannah Fletcher and Liberty's Ansley Gebben each knocked down a set-high five kills.
The fourth set would be the last of the night, but it would not end without a fight. The game was back-and-forth early on, but with the score knotted at 7-7, Liberty scored on four straight kills from three different players. The Flames would hold onto the lead until the near-end, but the Lions tied it up, 24-24.
Kills from Lillie Happel and Kendle Rollins would end the set with Liberty winning the series, 3-1.
Columbia will look to bounce back as the Lions wrap up their season-opening weekend in Orlando on Saturday in a showdown with Jacksonville at 4 p.m.
Live stats for the tournament can be found using the UCF Classic Gametracker.