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Coach's Corner with Shane Pinder: 2013 Volleyball Year in Review
With the 2013 Liberty volleyball season in the books, Nick Pierce of the Liberty Flames Sports Network recently sat down for an interview with 10th-year head coach Shane Pinder.
After getting off to a 1-14 start against a challenging early schedule, the Lady Flames bounced back, going 10-4 over the final 14 matches to finish 11-18 overall. Liberty went 9-3 down the stretch, posting a 9-5 Big South record to finish in a tie for third place in the league standings.
The Lady Flames rode a three-match winning streak into the Big South Volleyball Championship, where they opened up with a four-set victory over No. 5 seed UNC Asheville in the quarterfinals. Then, in the semifinal, Liberty and No. 1 seed Radford competed in the closest match of the weekend, with the eventual champion Highlanders rallying for a 3-2 win over the Lady Flames.
Liberty's first win of the season came on Sept. 3, a 3-1 victory over Georgetown at the Vines Center. The win marked the 700th victory in program history, and 175th in Pinder's head coaching career. Later in the year, on Oct. 19, Pinder recorded his 100th career Big South win when Liberty swept Coastal Carolina, 3-0.
The team played its best volleyball during conference play, ranking second in the Big South with a .232 hitting percentage while leading the league in blocks per set (2.47) and opponents' attack percentage (.154).
Senior setter Jade Craycraft finished off her career by being named to the Big South All-Conference first team for the second year in a row. She became the third player in program history to earn four all-conference awards in her career, joining Anthonia Akpama (1996-99) and Kallie Corbin (2006-09). This season, Craycraft led the Big South with a program-record five triple-doubles. She ranks fifth in program history with 4,162 career assists.
Lillie Happel, a senior outside hitter, picked up her third career all-conference honor this season, being named to the honorable mention team. Happel recorded her 1,000th career kill against No. 21 Kentucky, and finished her career ranked 10th in program history with 1,226 career kills. She collected her 1,000th dig during the Big South semifinal, joining the 1,000/1,000 club in the process.
Redshirt senior middle blocker Kendle Rollins led the Big South in blocks per set, both overall (1.12) and in conference play (1.16). Rollins was voted Big South All-Conference honorable mention. She became the first Lady Flame in rally-scoring history to record back-to-back 10-block matches. Rollins currently ranks fourth at Liberty with 423 career blocks.
Middle blocker Nzea McQuitery was named to the Big South All-Freshman team, after finishing second on the team with 75 blocks. Senior defensive specialist Becca Haraf earned her second Big South All-Academic team honor. Haraf was also voted to the Capital One Academic All-District Team, the first Lady Flame to receive the honor since Karyl Bacon in 2010.
Junior libero Gabrielle Shipe reached the 1,000 career dig milestone on Oct. 25 at Presbyterian College, and enters her senior year ranked 15th all-time at Liberty with 1,166 digs.
Redshirt sophomore Caroline Douglas, the 2012 Big South Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, missed the first half of the season with an injury. Her return helped spark Liberty's offense, as she led the team with 2.93 kills per set in 11 matches played.