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Liberty Voted 1st in Preseason Big South Poll; Douglas Named Preseason Player of Year
Liberty, the two-time defending Big South tournament champion, has been predicted to win the 2013 Big South volleyball title, through a vote of the league's head coaches. Additionally, redshirt sophomore outside hitter Caroline Douglas was named Big South Preseason Player of the Year, and was joined on the Preseason All-Big South team by senior setter Jade Craycraft.
Douglas, the 2012 Big South Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, is the second Lady Flame to be tabbed Big South Preseason Player of the Year in as many years. Liberty's Loren Thomas was named Preseason Player of the Year last year, while Kallie Corbin received the honor in 2009.
Liberty has been voted the Big South preseason favorite for the ninth time, and for the third year in a row.
The Lady Flames, under the direction of 10th-year head coach Shane Pinder, return five starters from a team which went 25-8 last season. In 2012, Liberty won its second straight conference tournament title, fourth in the last six seasons and seventh overall. The team has now won the Big South regular-season title six straight years, posted six straight 20-win seasons, and appeared in the conference title match six years in a row.
Liberty received 98 points, including eight first-place votes, while 2012 Big South runner-up Coastal Carolina totaled 92 points and drew the remaining two first-place votes. High Point followed in third place with 78 points. UNC Asheville (56), Presbyterian College (54), Radford (52), Winthrop (47) and Gardner-Webb (32) took fourth through eighth, respectively. Campbell and Charleston Southern tied for ninth place with 20 points each.
Douglas, a native of Greenville, N.C., was named Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year by both the Big South and VaSID last season. She was the first conference volleyball player to be named Big South Player and Freshman of the Year during the same season. She also earned AVCA All-Region honorable mention. Douglas led the Big South in kills per set both overall (3.69 kps) and in conference play (4.18). She posted 27 double-digit kill matches, including two 20-kill matches, in 2012.
Craycraft, hailing from Wooster, Ohio, is a three-time all-conference setter, after earning Big South All-Conference first team honors as a junior. She was tabbed the Big South Tournament MVP last season, and was twice listed as a CVU.com Top Performer in 2012. Last year, she led the conference in hitting percentage (.343) and was third in assists per set (9.60). She paced the Lady Flames with 11 double-doubles and directed an offense that led the Big South with a .250 hitting percentage overall.
The Lady Flames open their 2013 season on Aug. 30 against Ohio State at the NIU Invitational in DeKalb, Ill. The team's home opener will take place on Sept. 3, as Liberty welcomes Georgetown to the Vines Center. Liberty's Big South slate begins Sept. 27, when the Lady Flames travel to play at Radford.
The 2013 Big South Volleyball Championship will be hosted by Presbyterian College in Clinton, S.C., Nov. 21-24. The winner of the conference tournament receives the Big South's automatic qualifying bid to the 2013 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship.
2013 Big South Conference Preseason Volleyball Poll
(first place votes) total points
1. Liberty (8) 98
2. Coastal Carolina (2) 92
3. High Point 78
4. UNC Asheville 56
5. Presbyterian College 54
6. Radford 52
7. Winthrop 47
8. Gardner-Webb 32
t-9. Campbell 20
t-9. Charleston Southern 20
2013 Preseason All-Big South Team
Caroline Douglas, Liberty *
Kindra Bailey, Coastal Carolina
Jade Craycraft, Liberty
Gabriella Horvath, Coastal Carolina
Anna Moore, UNC Asheville
Kristin Heldt, High Point
Annemarie Chin, High Point
*Big South Preseason Player of the Year