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Lady Flames to Compete in WVU Gold & Blue Players Challenge
Liberty (1-9) remains on the road this week, competing in the WVU Gold & Blue Players Challenge, hosted by West Virginia. The Lady Flames are in the midst of a 10-match road swing, and play 13 out of their first 14 matches away from Lynchburg in 2013.
The Lady Flames open the weekend by facing West Virginia (10-1), Friday at 1 p.m. Liberty then meets former Big South foe UMBC at 1 p.m. on Saturday to close out its time in Morgantown, W.Va.
Liberty at a Glance
Liberty has faced a tough road so far this season, as six out of its first 10 opponents posted 20-win campaigns in 2012. The Lady Flames won their lone home match so far, 3-1 over Georgetown on Sept. 3. That win was the 700th victory in program history and 175th in the career of 10th-year head coach Shane Pinder.
The team has consistently been a strong blocking program, and currently ranks third in the Big South with 2.19 blocks per set. Redshirt senior Kendle Rollins, who was named to the Duke Invitational all-tournament team, is fifth in the conference in blocking.
How to Follow the Lady Flames
Live stats will be available for all of this week's matches at WVU Coliseum, through links on LibertyFlames.com. Live stats will appear courtesy of the West Virginia sports communications office. Liberty's contest against West Virginia on Friday will be video streamed, for a small fee, through West Virginia's Inside Access video site.
Week in Review
Liberty competed in the Duke Invitational last weekend, falling to the host Blue Devils, South Carolina of the SEC and 2012 WAC regular-season champion Utah State. The Lady Flames are in the midst of a 10-match road swing, their longest since playing 15 straight matches away from Lynchburg during the 2008 season.
A pair of middle blockers had strong weekends for the Lady Flames. Redshirt senior Kendle Rollins hit .323 and added a team-high 10 blocks, while freshman Nzea McQuitery paced the Lady Flames with 23 kills. Rollins was named to the all-tournament team in Durham.
Senior outside hitter Lillie Happel, a two-time all-conference selection, recorded her 1,000th career kill at No. 21 Kentucky, Sept. 7. In the process, she became the 14th player in program history to record 1,000 career kills. She currently has 1,019 kills at Liberty.
Current Liberty assistant coaches Jennifer (Belk) Vaden (2001-04) and Rebecca Rudnick (2001-04) are both members of the 1,000-kill club. Vaden is third on Liberty's all-time list, with 1,789 career kills, while Rudnick (1,164) is 10th. Erin McKeown (2000-03), Senior Woman Administrator and color analyst for Liberty volleyball, is 8th with 1,308 kills.
Own the Net
Last Friday, Liberty posted 8.0 team blocks against Duke, and added 9.5 rejections versus South Carolina. Redshirt senior Kendle Rollins had five blocks versus both the Blue Devils and the Gamecocks, while senior Jade Craycraft registered four blocks in the South Carolina match.
Liberty is now ranked third in the Big South with 2.19 blocks per set. The team has led the Big South in blocking in each of the last three seasons.
This past weekend, Rollins passed Erin McKeown (2000-03) into fifth place all-time at Liberty, with 342 career blocks.
Freshman Nzea McQuitery led Liberty with 2.56 kills per set at the Duke Invitational, including a career-high 11 on Saturday against Utah State.
McQuitery is the second Liberty freshman to record 11 kills in a match so far this season, as Susan Babcock registered 11 kills on Sept. 3 against Georgetown.
Babcock is tied for third on the team with 47 kills, while McQuitery is third with 18 blocks.
Versatility at Setter
Senior Jade Craycraft, the 2012 Big South Tournament MVP, is a three-time all-conference setter. She was named to the Big South All-Conference first team in 2012, when she led the team with 1,152 assists and 11 double-doubles. Craycraft guided the Lady Flames to a program-record and conference-best .250 team hitting percentage last year.
Craycraft has totaled 3,526 career assists, ranking sixth in program history. She has also recorded 246 blocks, and passed Kallie Corbin (244 blocks from 2006-09) for the most blocks by a Liberty setter with 3,500 or more assists.
Scouting West Virginia
West Virginia, off to its best start in program history at 10-1, suffered its first defeat of the season on Tuesday at Duquesne. The Mountaineers entered the week ranked ninth nationally with 2.80 blocks per set, led by Big 12 leader Caleah Wells (1.32 blocks per set). Jordan Anderson leads WVU with 3.97 kills per set and 0.32 aces per set. Brittany Sample averages 10.86 assists per set, while Anna Panagiotakopoulos collects 4.38 digs per set.
Fourth-year head coach Jill Kramer has posted a 40-57 career record at West Virginia, beginning with a 15-15 mark in her first year, 2010. Kramer is 1-0 all-time against the Lady Flames.
West Virginia leads the all-time series over Liberty, 6-4, and the Mountaineers have won each of the last three meetings. Liberty is 2-1 all-time against the Mountaineers in matches played in Morgantown, with its last series win coming Oct. 4, 1994 at WVU. West Virginia downed Liberty, 3-1, on Sept. 17, 2010 in Fullerton, Calif. Current Lady Flames Jade Craycraft, Lillie Happel and Kendle Rollins all started as freshmen in that match.
UMBC (7-4) has shaken off a slow start, as the Retrievers will bring a six-match winning streak with them to Morgantown. 2012 America East first team setter Mallory McIntyre averages 9.72 assists per set to lead the conference, and adds 0.38 aces per set. Ali Goc averages a team-best 2.74 kills per set, while Casey Griffith checks in with 4.05 digs per set. Hannah Schmidt hits .304, and posts 0.90 blocks on average. 2012 America East blocks leader Emily Witsaman was named America East Player of the Week this week, after Goc earned the award a week ago.
Ian Blanchard, in his ninth season at UMBC, has guided the Retrievers to a 127-119 overall record, and two appearances in the America East championship match.
Liberty and UMBC will meet for the first time since Sept. 11, 1999, renewing a series which the Retrievers lead, 18-9. UMBC has won each of the last three meetings. These two programs met as Big South opponents from 1992-97. The Lady Flames' last win over UMBC was on Nov. 15, 1997 in the Big South final, as Liberty earned its first-ever conference volleyball title.
The Lady Flames have regularly faced a tough non-conference schedule under 10th-year head coach Shane Pinder. These early tests have helped prepare Liberty for strong finishes in conference play, as the Lady Flames are 112-39 (.741) against Big South opponents since 2004, including regular season and postseason matches.
During the first 10 matches of a season under Pinder, the Lady Flames are 46-54 (.460). Their winning percentage improves to .533 (48-42) from matches 11-20, while Liberty is 81-34 (.704) from match 21 until the end of the season.
West Virginia Bound
Although West Virginia borders Virginia, Liberty volleyball will be competing there for the first time since Oct. 4, 1994, a 3-2 Lady Flames victory over the Mountaineers. That predates the birth of current Lady Flames Susan Babcock and Nzea McQuitery.
Since their last trip to West Virginia, the Lady Flames have competed in 24 different states and the District of Columbia. This list includes such states as Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York and Texas.