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Lady Flames Announce 2008-09 Schedule
The defending Big South champion Liberty women's basketball team will face arguably its most challenging schedule in program history in 2008-09, as announced today. The slate includes an appearance in the Preseason WNIT, as well as contests against four 2008 NCAA Tournament participants and a quartet of 2008 WNIT participants.
Liberty has 11 games scheduled versus teams which won 20 or more games during the 2007-08 campaign. The number could grow, depending on the Lady Flames' latter-round matchups in the Preseason WNIT, the GW Thanksgiving Classic and the Hokie Hardwood Classic.
Head coach Carey Green's Lady Flames will tip off the 2008-09 season on Nov. 14, when Commonwealth foe VCU visits the Vines Center for a first-round Preseason WNIT tilt. Liberty enters the season with a 13-game home winning streak, which will be put to the test versus the Rams, who went 26-8 and advanced to the second round of the WNIT in 2008.
Liberty, making its second Preseason WNIT appearance, and first since the 2003-04 season, is guaranteed at least three games. If the Lady Flames defeat VCU, they will meet the winner of the North Carolina/Western Carolina contest in the second round. If the Rams prevail, Liberty will play a pair of consolation contests in the 16-team tournament, which wraps up with the championship game on Nov. 23.
The Lady Flames will return to action the day after Thanksgiving with a trip to Washington, D.C., for the GW Thanksgiving Classic. Liberty's first-round opponent on Nov. 28 will be Hartford of the America East Conference. A new opponent on the Lady Flames' schedule this year, the Hawks have played in the NCAA Tournament three of the past four seasons. Hartford reached the second round a year ago, after upsetting Syracuse.
Liberty will play in either the championship or consolation game the following day. Host team George Washington, which has made back-to-back NCAA Tournament "Sweet 16" appearances, and South Alabama, coming off a 20-11 season, are the Lady Flames' possible day two opponents.
The month of December opens with Liberty's first non-tournament game of the 2008-09 season, a Dec. 2 trip to James Madison. The Dukes went 24-10 last season and made it to the WNIT "Sweet 16." The JMU Convocation Center has proven to be a tough place to play in recent years, as the Dukes are 46-3 in their last 49 home games.
Liberty plays its final two home games of 2008 in succession, on Dec. 7 and Dec. 13. The quick, two-game homestand opens with SEC foe Auburn's first-ever visit to Lynchburg. The Tigers, who went 20-12 and competed in the 2008 NCAA Tournament, will be only the second SEC men's or women's basketball team ever to play at the Vines Center. The Lady Flames previously hosted Kentucky on Dec. 11, 1999.
Six days later, NCAA Division II squad St. Paul's travels to Liberty, before the Lady Flames close out the calendar year with a quartet of road contests.
Liberty will make a quick trip south, just prior to Christmas. The Lady Flames are scheduled to meet Winston-Salem State for the first time in program history, on Dec. 20. Liberty will travel from Winston-Salem to Nashville, Tenn., for a Dec. 22 matinee versus perennial national power Vanderbilt. Last season, the Commodores posted 25 wins and reached the NCAA Tournament "Sweet 16."
On Dec. 29-30, the Lady Flames will participate in their third and final regular-season tournament of the season, Virginia Tech's Hokie Hardwood Classic. In the first round, Liberty will take on North Carolina A&T. The Aggies, coming off a 25-8 season which saw them reach the WNIT, will be seeking a measure of revenge against the Lady Flames. In 2007-08, Liberty handed North Carolina A&T its lone home defeat of the season.
The next day, the Lady Flames will compete for either first or third place in the four-team tournament. Liberty will be matched up with either the host Hokies or Lafayette of the Patriot League.
Liberty opens the new year with its Big South opener, as Gardner-Webb invades the Vines Center on Jan. 3. The contest will be the Runnin' Bulldogs' first-ever Big South Conference game and will also mark Gardner-Webb head coach Rick Reeves' return to Liberty. He coached the Lady Flames for nine seasons (1991-99), winning a trio of Big South titles.
One week later, the Lady Flames will head to the Winthrop Coliseum, the site of its only conference loss in 2007-08. Winthrop returns its entire roster from a 20-12 squad.
Liberty will come right back home on Jan. 13 for its final non-conference outing of the season. Its opponent will be East Tennessee State, an Atlantic Sun squad coming off its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The Lady Flames will return to the road for the first of six Big South Saturday-Monday pairings. The two-game swing will see Liberty visit Presbyterian on Jan. 17 and UNC Asheville Jan. 19.
The contest against the Lady Blue Hose, the Lady Flames' first trip to Clinton, S.C., will count in the Big South standings, even though Presbyterian is not eligible for the season-ending Big South Women's Basketball Championship. Two days later, many positive memories will undoubtedly be invoked during Liberty's first visit to UNC Asheville's Justice Center since Megan Frazee's buzzer-beater lifted the Lady Flames past Radford in the 2008 Big South Championship game.
Liberty will return to the Vines Center for its longest homestand of the year, including a quartet of conference tilts. South Carolina squads Charleston Southern and Coastal Carolina will play at Liberty on Jan. 24 and 26, respectively. Green has never lost to either team, as his squads are 20-0 versus Charleston Southern and 21-0 against his alma mater.
The following weekend, High Point visits on Jan. 31 and Radford comes to town on Feb. 2. The matchup against the Highlanders will be the teams' first pairing since the aforementioned 2008 Big South Championship game. Radford was 23-12 and played in the 2008 WNIT, but will feature a new head coach in 2008-09. Tajama Ngongba has taken over the coaching reins at Radford, replacing Liberty alumna Jeri Porter.
Liberty then begins its second round of Big South play with its first-ever trip to Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs, N.C., on Feb. 9. Exactly one week later, Winthrop is slated to meet the Lady Flames in the Vines Center. The contest with the Eagles will be Liberty's celebration of the WBCA Pink Zone, aimed at increasing breast cancer awareness.
On Feb. 21 and 23, Liberty will make the annual South Carolina beach trip. The trip starts out with a game at Coastal Carolina and concludes two days later at Charleston Southern.
The Lady Flames will wrap up their 12-game home schedule with a Feb. 28 contest against UNC Asheville, which will serve as Liberty's "Senior Night," and a March 2 visit by Presbyterian.
Liberty is slated to play at Radford's newly renovated Dedmon Center on March 7, before heading to High Point for the March 9 regular-season finale.
The Lady Flames will become quite familiar with High Point's Millis Athletic Center, as they return on March 13 for the start of the Big South Women's Basketball Championship. High Point will play host to the entire tournament, which continues through the March 15 championship tilt, for the first time.
The winner of the Big South Championship will earn the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship, which begins with first-round contests on March 21 and 22. This season, there will be 16 different host sites for the first and second-round games, ranging from locations as nearby as College Park, Md., to those as far away as Seattle, Wash.