Winthrop's volleyball team overcame numerous unforced errors and a determined effort by Liberty to post a 3-1 victory and extend its winning streak against Big South Conference opponents to 57.
The Eagles downed the Lady Flames 30-27, 30-24, 25-39 and 32-30 before a loud Alumni Day crowd at The Winthrop Coliseum. It was the fifth straight win for coach Sally Polhamus' Eagles who improved to 7-9 overall and 3-0 in the Big South.
Winthrop, the five-time Big South Conference champion, was the preseason No. 1 choice, while the Lady Flames.
Polhamus got exactly what she expected from the Lady Flames.
"You have to give Liberty a lot of credit," Polhamus said. "We knew they were going to play hard until the last point and that's exactly what they did."
Though pleased with the win, the first-year coach said there were several areas her team still has to work on.
"We still need to work on finishing off games," Polhamus said. "We made a lot of unforced errors."
The majority of those miscues came while serving. The Eagles had 15 serving errors, most of which led to an offensive run by the Lady Flames.
Two service mistakes in the fourth game put the Eagles in a very precarious position. Winthrop led 19-14 before the second serving error.
The Lady Flames, down 2-1, scored four more points to tie the game. Winthrop would bounce back and build the lead to 29-24.
Another bad serve resulted in five-straight points and a 29-29 tie. With the match tied at 30, Winthrop scored two unanswered points to win the game and take the match.
Winthrop built big leads in the first and second games only to have the Lady Flames claw their way back into contention. But unlike game four, the Eagles never let Liberty tie.
"We have to control the errors on our side of the net," Polhamus said. "We do that and finishing off games and matches will come easier."
Winthrop will go for its 58th straight against BSC teams at UNC Asheville.
"We're definitely aware of the streak," junior Shannon Sitzmann, who led the Eagles with a career-high 23 kills said, "but it's not something that we focus on.
"We have a very young team. We have five returning players and seven new ones. So, we're still trying to find our own identity, but we're getting to know each other and we're playing better."
Sitzmann, the BSC preseason player of the year, was one of our Eagles with double-digit kills. Sophomore Kelley Taylor, who has averaged 5.7 kills the last three matches, finished with 17 kills and five blocks.
Senior Tara Toepke registered 16 kills to tie her career best. Freshman Kellie Sellers continued her stellar play with 11 kills and a career four blocks.
Freshman Kelsey Hall finished with 63 assists and 12 digs.
"Kelsey did a nice job quarterbacking the offense," Polhamus said.
Chelaine McCarty led the Lady Flames, 10-7, 2-1, with 17 kills.