Ashley Liford's Career-High 30 Kills Leads Fifth-Seeded Tigers Past UCF, 3-1
Nov. 15, 2007
HUNTINGTON, W.V. -
No. 12 UCF (9-23) 30 24 26 18 No. 5 Memphis (23-11) 27 30 30 30
The upset-minded UCF Knights fought to a game one win, but behind a career-high 30 kills and 21 digs from senior outside hitter Ashley Liford, Memphis was able to battle its way to a 3-1 win in the final match of the opening day of the 2007 Conference USA Championships. The Tigers will now prepare for a quarterfinal matchup with No. 4 Tulsa, tomorrow at 7 p.m. EST.
"I'm really proud of the girls," said Head Coach Carrie Yerty. "We started off a little hesitant, but as the match progressed we got more aggressive. Laura Côté did a nice job setting and running the offense, and our reserves--Lauren Thompson and Emily Underwood--really came in and gave us a big lift. I'm proud of our effort. Now we will start preparation for a tough match against Tulsa tomorrow."
UCF made it tough on the Tigers from game one. After taking a 10-4 lead, the Knights staged a 7-1 run to tie the game at 11-11. UCF took its first lead of the night, 13-12, and never trailed again. A UCF ace late in the set put the Knights on top 23-18, and the Tigers' deficit ballooned to 28-20 after a UofM service error. At 29-21, Memphis put up a comeback bid. With Laura Côté at the service line, the Tigers scored six straight points to cut the deficiency to 29-27. But UCF regrouped to earn the 30-27 win.
Memphis evened the slate in game two. UCF scored the first point of the game, but back-to-back kills by Shelby Burton and Rebekah Strickland helped jumpstart the Tiger offense to a 3-1 lead early on. After battling through four ties, UCF used a four-point push to take a 13-9 cushion. The Knights extended the lead to five, 16-11. Sarah Bury then put the bookends on a 6-0 run to give Memphis a 17-16 advantage. Bury finished the night with a double-double of 14 kills and 13 digs. UCF again fought back to knot the game at 20-all. The Tiger answered with kills from Côté and Liford, combined with a pair of UCF hitting errors to climb back on top 24-20. UCF again battled back to cut the lead to 25-24. That's when the senior Liford showed her leadership. The San Antonio native, struck for consecutive kills, and added another kill to power Memphis to scoring the final five points of the game for a 30-24 triumph.
With the game tied at 1-1, UCF came out of the break to score the first five points of the third, before Liford broke the Knights' serve with one of her eight game-three kills. That kill fueled a 15-6 spurt by the Tigers that tied the game at 15-11. A 7-0 run powered by the serve of Burton highlighted Memphis' bid to take a 2-1 lead. Trailing 11-9, the Memphis defense induced three straight attack errors by the Knights to take a 12-11 lead. Kills by Liford and Côté followed, and Memphis was on its way with a four-point cushion. A kill by Bury made it 21-16, but UCF kept things close by scoring on the next four serves to make it a one-point game, 21-20. A kill by Liford gave Memphis a three-point lead late in the set and forced a UCF timeout. Memphis did ot let momentum escape as kills by Thompson, Bury and Liford made it 29-25.
Ahead 2-1, Memphis turned up its intensity. Liford hammered two more kills in a five-point run that saw the Tigers take a 6-1 lead. Liford, who slammed 10 kills in the fourth, made it 16-8 midway through. A UCF ball handling error gave Memphis a 10-point cushion and the first-round victory as in sight. Liford struck six more times in the Tigers' final eight scores to become just the fifth Tiger to ever reach the 30-kill mark. Memphis held UCF to just -.037 hitting in the final frame.
The UofM defense was paced by Liford's 21 digs, enroute to limiting the Knights to .091 hitting in the match. UCF hit .000 in game two and .098 in the third. Freshman libero Christine Bach was solid in the Tiger backrow, making 18 digs to go with four assists. Bury and Burton made three blocks each, but freshman middle blocker Emily Underwood was the true difference at the net for Memphis. Underwood came off the bench to make a team-high five blocks.
The Tiger offense was run by Côté's 61 assists. The junior setter added five service aces, nine digs and five kills. Burton downed eight kills, while Thompson provided a spark with four kills in a reserve role. Memphis hit .254 in the match, including a blistering .400 in the clincher.
UCF was led by Stephanie Serna's 13 kills and 16 digs from Erin Campbell. The Knights finish the year with a 9-23 mark.