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Lady Flames Close Out Regular Season at Home Against UNC Asheville, Gardner-Webb
Complete Match Notes
Liberty (22-8, 9-3 Big South) enters this weekend in a tie for second place in the Big South, one match behind conference-leading Radford with two matches to go. The Lady Flames open the weekend with a 3:30 p.m. contest against UNC Asheville on Friday (7-21, 3-9). On Saturday at 1 p.m., the Lady Flames host Gardner-Webb (12-18, 5-7) in their final regular-season match of the season. Liberty will honor its two seniors, Melissa Racz and Gabrielle Shipe, with a ceremony prior to Saturday's match.
How to Follow the Lady Flames
Live stats will be available for both of Liberty's matches this weekend. Additionally, the Liberty-UNC Asheville contest on Friday will be available for viewing, free of charge, on the Big South Network, the Liberty Channel and ESPN3.com. Ray Jones will serve as play-by-play announcer, with Erin Hagen providing analysis.
1. The Lady Flames started off the conference slate at 9-0 for the first time ever, before sustaining three straight setbacks. Liberty returns home, where it is 5-0 in conference play this season, and riding an eight-match home winning streak.
2. The Lady Flames' 13-match winning streak from Sept. 20 through Oct. 25 was their longest since posting a program-record 16-match winning streak in 2007.
3. 11th year head coach Shane Pinder became Liberty's all-time leader in career victories with his 199th win on Oct. 3 at Gardner-Webb. With a 207-147 career record, he is ranked fourth all-time in coaching wins among Big South volleyball coaches.
4. Junior Jade Vorster led the team in kills last week, sending down a career-high 16 kills on Friday at High Point. Ranked second in the Big South with 1.20 blocks per set, she has set a new single-season program rally-scoring record with 27 solo blocks.
5. Seniors Melissa Racz and Gabrielle Shipe will be honored with a Senior Day ceremony on Saturday. Racz and Shipe have helped the Lady Flames to a pair of Big South titles, two NCAA Tournament appearances and a 78-47 overall record.
6. Freshman Anna Willey posted back-to-back 40-assist matches last weekend, starting with a career-high 45 assists at High Point. She then added a double-double, Saturday.
7. Freshman Gabrielle Vess scored a career-high 12 kills on Saturday at Campbell, making her the 10th current Lady Flame with at least one career 10-kill match.
Liberty vs. UNC Asheville
UNC Asheville (7-21, 3-9) ranks ninth in the Big South standings, but defeated Winthrop, 3-2, last Saturday, for its second win in the last three matches. The Bulldogs average 2.13 blocks per set, good for third in the conference. Madison Vaughn's 1.01 blocks per set rank fifth conference-wise, while Christine Lakatos is fifth with 0.33 aces per set. Lakatos and Shelby Erickson are tied for the team lead with 2.52 kills per set each.
Fourth-year head coach Frederico Santos is 51-70 at UNC Asheville following three seasons during which he led Barry to a 46-31 record.
Liberty leads UNC Asheville, 36-20, in the all-time series, including 17-9 under Shane Pinder. The Lady Flames have won five straight meetings, and are 10-1 in the last 11 matchups with the Bulldogs. UNC Asheville's last win over the Lady Flames was Sept. 29, 2012, a 3-2 Bulldogs victory at the Justice Center.
The Lady Flames defeated UNC Asheville, 3-1, on Oct. 4 at the Justice Center behind 21 kills by Caroline Douglas, giving head coach Shane Pinder his 200th career victory.
Liberty vs. Gardner-Webb
Gardner-Webb (12-18, 5-7 Big South) enters the weekend tied for sixth in the Big South with High Point, having lost three matches in a row. Tyler Cockrell ranks third in the conference in blocks (1.11 per set) and 10th in kills (2.79 per set). Anna Pashkova is ranked fourth in digs (4.83), while Heather Feldman ranks sixth with 9.27 assists per set.
Fourth-year head coach Leo Sayles holds a 46-78 record at Gardner-Webb after going 153-111 during seven years at Bryan College.
Liberty leads the all-time series over the Runnin' Bulldogs, 15-2, winning the first 11 meetings, before Gardner-Webb rallied for a 3-2 win over Liberty, Oct. 4, 2013 at the Vines Center. During each of Gardner-Webb's first four seasons in the Big South (2008-11), Liberty defeated the Runnin' Bulldogs in the Big South tournament's opening round.
Liberty swept the Runnin' Bulldogs, 3-0, on Oct. 3, in Boiling Springs, N.C., as Shane Pinder became Liberty's all-time winningest coach with the victory.
Liberty has won eight straight matches at the Vines Center, holding a 9-2 home record. It is the team's longest home winning streak since winning 15 straight at home from Oct. 14, 2011 through Sept. 3, 2013.
The Lady Flames are 21-4 (.840) in their last 25 home matches and 44-6 (.880) in their last 50 home contests. Liberty is 86-27 (.761) at home under 11th-year head coach Shane Pinder. This year's senior class has gone 34-5 (.872) at the Vines Center.
Liberty has gone 31-3 (.912) in conference home matches during the careers of the current seniors. Overall under Pinder, Liberty is 64-13 (.831) in Big South home matches, including 57-6 (.905) since the start of the 2006 season.
With one weekend of play remaining, Radford tops the Big South standings at 10-2, with Liberty and Coastal Carolina tied for second, at 9-3. Liberty can finish anywhere between first and third in the final conference standings. The Lady Flames holds head-to-head tiebreakers over both Coastal Carolina and fourth-place Winthrop (8-5).
The Lady Flames have won at least nine conference matches for the ninth season in a row. With one more win, Liberty would secure its seventh year in the last eight with 10 or more Big South victories.
Liberty's middle blockers, Jade Vorster and Nzea McQuitery, both reached double digits in kills last Friday at High Point and Saturday at Campbell. Vorster led all players with a career-high 16 kills at a .480 pace at High Point, while McQuitery sent down 10 kills.
On Saturday at Campbell, Vorster, McQuitery and freshman Gabrielle Vess all recorded 12 kills, with Vess' 12 kills serving as a career high.
Freshman setter Anna Willey, filling in for Caila Stapleton, recorded back-to-back 40-assist matches last weekend. She dished out a career-high 45 assists at High Point, before registering her second career double-double at Campbell with 41 assists, a career-high 12 digs, two aces and a career-high tying six blocks.
Vess found success at the service line on Friday at High Point, with four aces. Vess and Kate Corson are the only two Lady Flames to post a four-ace match this season.
Vorster Vaults into 1st Place
Junior Jade Vorster has set a new program single-season rally-scoring record with 27 solo blocks this season, breaking Loren Thomas' (2011) record of 25. Vorster has posted 137 total blocks, ranking second in program history for a single season since 2001.
For the season, Vorster is ranked second in the Big South in blocks per set overall (1.20) and in conference play (1.23).
Shipe Closing In
Senior Gabrielle Shipe paces the team with 4.45 digs per set on the season, ranking seventh in the Big South.
Shipe is now ranked No. 3 on Liberty's all-time list with 1,678 career digs. She needs 62 more digs to pass Nikki Keznor (1991-94) into second place all-time. Shipe entered this season ranked 15th on the list.