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First-Place Lady Flames Return to the Road
Liberty enters the week at 20-7 overall and 9-1 in conference action. The Lady Flames, in the midst of their first 20-win season since 2003, own a one-half game lead on Winthrop atop the Big South standings, with two conference matches remaining.
This Week's Schedule
Friday, Nov. 2
Liberty (20-7, 9-1 Big South) at Presbyterian (18-11) – 7 p.m. – Templeton Center
Saturday, Nov. 3
Liberty at UNC Asheville (8-20, 1-9 Big South) – 2 p.m. – Justice Center
Tuesday, Nov. 6
North Carolina Central (18-10) at Liberty – 7 p.m. – Vines Center
How to Follow the Lady Flames
Live stats will be available for Saturday's match at UNC Asheville and Tuesday's home contest against North Carolina Central. They are accessible by clicking "Live Stats" on the volleyball schedule/results page of LibertyFlames.com, by clicking here for the UNC Asheville live stats page or by clicking here for the North Carolina Central at Liberty stats.
The Tuesday match versus North Carolina Central will be broadcast on the Liberty Channel, by the announcing team of Ray Jones and Lee Beaumont. The Liberty Channel feed will also be available via the Big South EDGE, for a cost of $4.95 per match. Click here for more information on the EDGE, or click "Live Video" on the volleyball schedule/results page. (The Saturday match at UNC Asheville will also be video streamed through the EDGE.)
A Look at Liberty
Liberty, coached by Shane Pinder (52-66 in his fourth season), shattered a number of streaks over the weekend. High Point had won 10-straight matches, before leaving the Vines Center with a loss last Friday evening. Then, Winthrop came to town on a 12-match winning streak overall and an eight-match winning streak against the Lady Flames, in addition to the aforementioned conference run. The Eagles' streaks were all brought to a halt last Saturday evening.
Sophomore setter Kallie Corbin was named Big South Conference Choice Hotels Player of the Week for the second week in a row and also earned CVU.com National Player of the Week distinction. Corbin got her team off to a hot start against High Point, hitting 1.000 with three kills, 20 assists and five digs in the opening game against the Panthers. For the weekend, the sophomore hit .364 with 10 kills, 90 assists and 21 digs. She currently leads all Big South setters in kills, attack percentage, assists, digs and blocks.
For the fourth-consecutive week, right-side hitter Nicki Scripko was recognized as Big South Conference New Balance Freshman of the Week. She led all players in both kills (16) and digs (15) in the High Point tilt, while also adding a career-best three service aces. Then, Scripko paced the Lady Flames with 14 kills against Winthrop, despite a slow start. The freshman came on for seven kills and a .700 attack percentage in the third and decisive stanza.
Scripko's classmate, outside hitter Karyl Bacon, is returning to her early-season form, after battling through an ankle injury. She hit a match-high .423 with 12 kills and 16 digs, to push Liberty past Winthrop, last Saturday. The double-double was her sixth of the season.
Redshirt junior Jessica Nelson totaled 18 kills and 29 digs in the two matches over the weekend, leading the team in the latter category. One of only two Big South players ranked in the top 10 in both kills and digs, Nelson needs five more kills for the second 300-kill season of her career.
Climbing up the Rankings
Corbin has been steadily moving upward on the national list for assists per game. She is averaging 12.48 apg, and ranks No. 39 nationally in the category. Corbin is just ahead of the setters for No. 1 Penn State and No. 6 USC on the list.
The Lady Flames' 3-0 sweep of Winthrop drew 1,583 fans to the Vines Center last Saturday, setting a new Big South Conference volleyball attendance record. The previous high of 1,125 was also set during a Winthrop at Liberty match, on Nov. 16, 2001 in the Big South Tournament semifinals.
The sizable, enthusiastic gathering propelled Liberty to its seventh-straight home win. The Lady Flames are 9-2 at the Vines Center this season.
Liberty's 10-match winning streak is the team's longest since a 10-match streak from Oct. 21-Nov. 21, 2003. The longest winning streak in program history is a 12-match run during the 1987 campaign, under head coach Sue Kelly.
Lara Bartolomeo, a senior libero, passed Erin McKeown for fourth place on Liberty's all-time digs list during the Lady Flames' win over High Point. She now has 1,493 career digs. Additionally, her 421 digs this season is the third-highest single-season total by a Lady Flame since rally scoring was instituted in 2001. Bartolomeo holds the program's rally-scoring record with her 494 digs last season.
Unofficial Regional Rankings
The Lady Flames are ranked a season-best No. 7 in this week's unofficial East Region rankings, as determined by the RKPI listings. The RKPI rankings simulate the RPI formula utilized by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. Liberty's RKPI currently stands at No. 96 out of 325 NCAA Division I programs. Listed below are the top 10 teams in the unofficial East Region rankings.
3) Georgia Tech
4) Florida State
9) James Madison
Best in the Big South
Liberty leads the Big South Conference in five team statistical categories. The Lady Flames top the conference in attack percentage (.225), opponent hitting percentage (.151), assists (14.54 apg), kills (16.05 kpg) and blocks (2.33 bpg)
Individually, five Lady Flames rank in the top five of Big South statistical categories, highlighted by Corbin, who leads the conference with 12.48 assists per game and is fourth with 0.37 aces per game.
Both of Liberty's starting middle blockers rank second in their respective categories, as Chelaine McCarty is second in attack percentage at .329 and Ashley Webber is second with 1.01 blocks per game. Webber has 99 blocks on the season and is eight away from breaking Erin McKeown's record for single-season blocks, since rally scoring was instituted in 2001.
Scripko's recent hot streak has boosted the rookie into fifth place for attack percentage, .284, while Bartolomeo ranks fifth with 4.34 digs per stanza.
The Presbyterian Blue Hose, under the direction of second-year head coach Chris Belshe, hail from Clinton, S.C. Belshe owns a career record of 27-36.
The Blue Hose have excelled in the first year of their transition from NCAA Division II to Division I, sitting just two victories away from a 20-win season, with four matches left to play. The year has been one of streaks for Presbyterian, who followed a 15-match winning skein by dropping seven in a row.
Presbyterian has gotten back on track, and brings a three-match winning streak into Friday's contest against the Lady Flames. The Blue Hose took a pair of matches from future conference foes Coastal Carolina and Charleston Southern over the weekend. The Blue Hose swept the season series from both South Carolina teams, and are now 5-6 versus Big South opponents this year.
Rachel Lewis, a 5-5 junior setter put up 129 assists in the two victories, including 71 against the Lady Buccaneers on Saturday. Kelsey McKee, a 6-0 sophomore middle blocker, was the recipient of 37 of her assists and hit .500 with 10 blocks over the weekend.
For the season, 5-9 outside hitter Lauren Mason, the only senior on the Blue Hose roster, paces the team with 444 kills, and needs 62 kills to reach 1,500 for her career. Mason was limited to eight kills on Oct. 12 at the Vines Center, however, as her squad dropped its first-ever meeting with the Lady Flames by a 3-0 count. Meanwhile, Scripko hit .591 with 15 kills for the Lady Flames, while McCarty hit .600 with 14 kills.
The UNC Asheville Bulldogs, from Asheville, N.C., are under the direction of the winningest coach in Big South volleyball history, Julie Torbett. She is 238-223 in her 14th season with the Bulldogs.
UNC Asheville, which lost in the Big South Championship title match a season ago, is currently tied for sixth in the conference standings. The Bulldogs picked up their first conference win last Friday, with a 3-1 home decision over Charleston Southern. Alysha Greer, a 6-1 sophomore outside hitter kicked off a strong weekend with 17 kills versus the Lady Buccaneers, before tallying 20 kills versus Coastal Carolina the following day.
Kelsey Benorden, a 5-10 outside hitter, has starred during her freshman year with the Bulldogs, leading the conference with 17 double-doubles. She currently ranks second in the Big South with 3.91 kills per game, is tied for ninth with 0.29 aces per game and is 10th with 3.22 digs per game. Fellow freshman Rachel Guinane serves as UNC Asheville's setter, and needs just 39 assists to eclipse the 1,000-assist mark for the season.
Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Ficker was voted to the preseason all-conference team. She currently ranks sixth in the Big South with 0.91 blocks per game and sits ninth with her .252 attack percentage.
Saturday's match-up will be the 40th all-time contest between Liberty and UNC Asheville. The Lady Flames own a 23-16 edge in the head-to-head series, including a 3-0 victory on Oct. 14, at the Vines Center. Liberty's aggressive serving gave the Lady Flames an edge in the match, as Liberty served up all eight of the afternoon's aces, including five by Corbin.
North Carolina Central
North Carolina Central, located in Durham, N.C., is coached by Georgette Crawford-Crooks. She is 50-23 in her second year with the Eagles, and is 69-134 in six total seasons as a collegiate head coach. She is familiar with the Big South Conference, as she previously spent four seasons (1999-2002) as High Point's head coach.
Like Presbyterian, North Carolina Central has enjoyed success in its first year of transition from NCAA Division II to Division I. The Eagles won 32 matches and made the NCAA Division II Tournament a season ago. This year, they are 18-10 and have defeated teams like N.C. State and Providence. North Carolina Central is 1-1 against Big South opposition, owning a win over Charleston Southern and losing to UNC Asheville.
The Eagles, who feature six foreign-born players, are led by Barbados native Shari Matthews. The 5-7 outside hitter was named Daktronics NCAA Division II National Player of the Year a year ago, after setting a national record with 974 kills and leading the nation with 140 aces. This year, Matthews is leading the team with 399 kills and 77 aces. Her 0.82 aces per game would rank third in the nation if the Eagles were eligible to be listed.
Matthews is not North Carolina's lone offensive weapon, however. Anielle DaSilva, a 5-11 outside hitter from Brazil, has chipped in with 337 kills and 34 aces of her own this season.
Liberty and North Carolina Central have met twice previously on the volleyball court, with the Lady Flames taking both matches. Most recently, Liberty swept the Eagles, 3-0, on Sept. 9, 1996, in Durham, N.C.