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Liberty Volleyball Picked 3rd in Big South
The 2014 Liberty volleyball team has been picked to finish third in the Big South Conference this season, as voted upon by the league's head coaches. Additionally, redshirt junior outside hitter Caroline Douglas was named to the Preseason All-Big South team for the second straight season.
Led by Preseason Big South Player of the Year Rachel Wiechecki, Radford is favored to successfully defend its Big South title this season. The Highlanders claimed six of 10 first-place votes and 93 total points. They were followed closely by 2013 Big South runner-up Coastal Carolina, which garnered a pair of first-place votes and 90 points.
Liberty claimed the final two first-place votes and totaled 82 points for third place, while High Point's 75 points were good for the fourth spot. The remainder of the poll was comprised by Winthrop (fifth place, 55 points), UNC Asheville (sixth, 37), Campbell (seventh, 36), Gardner-Webb (eighth, 35), Presbyterian College (ninth, 32) and Charleston Southern (10th, 15).
Coming off of an 11-18 campaign, the Lady Flames will not enter the season as the Big South favorite for the first time since 2010. Head coach Shane Pinder's team did win 10 of its last 14 matches to close out the 2013 season, earning the No. 4 seed for the Big South Championship at 9-5. Liberty then reached the Big South semifinal round for the seventh consecutive season.
Douglas, the 2012 Big South Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, headlines Liberty's returnees. After an injury sidelined her for the first 17 matches of the 2013 season, Douglas returned to fuel the Lady Flames' late-season surge. The native of Greenville, North Carolina recorded 123 kills in just 11 matches, notching double-digit kills eight times.
Pinder, beginning his 11th season as Liberty's head coach, will also welcome back senior defensive specialist Gabrielle Shipe and sophomore middle blocker Nzea McQuitery. Shipe paced the team and ranked seventh in the Big South with 411 digs a year ago. Meanwhile, McQuitery made the Big South All-Freshman Team after ranking second among the Lady Flames with 75 blocks.
The Lady Flames' roster will feature a lot of new faces in 2014, including six freshmen and two transfers. Middle blocker Jade Vorster joins the team after earning a pair of All-Big West honors for nationally-ranked Hawai'i.
Liberty is set to begin the 2014 campaign with a trio of matches at the Elon Tournament, starting with an Aug. 29 matchup against San Jose State. The Lady Flames' 13-match home schedule will begin on Sept. 5 versus Howard, as part of the Liberty Invitational. The first of Liberty's 14 Big South Conference tilts will be a Sept. 26 home showdown with defending conference champion Radford.
Coastal Carolina will play host to the Big South Volleyball Championship for the first time since 2005, Nov. 20-23 at The HTC Center. The winner of the conference tournament receives the Big South's automatic qualifying bid to the 2014 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship.
2014 Big South Conference Preseason Volleyball Poll
Team (First-place votes) – Points
1) Radford (6) – 93
2) Coastal Carolina (2) – 90
3) Liberty (2) – 82
4) High Point – 75
5) Winthrop – 55
6) UNC Asheville – 37
7) Campbell – 36
8) Gardner-Webb – 35
9) Presbyterian College – 32
10) Charleston Southern – 15
2014 Preseason All-Big South Team
Rachel Wiechecki, Sr., OH, Radford (Preseason Player of the Year)
Chelsea Davis, Sr., OH, High Point
Emma Deininger, Sr., MB, Radford
Gabriella Horvath, Jr., OH, Coastal Carolina
Caroline Douglas, R-Jr., OH, Liberty
Lian Bernett, R-Jr., RS/OH, Coastal Carolina
Mary Crema, Jr., LIB, Campbell
Mary Trimpe, R-Sr., LIB, Presbyterian College