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Lady Flames to Open Big South Tourney vs. No. 8 Bulldogs
The No. 1 seed Liberty Lady Flames (23-8, 14-2 Big South) will begin pursuit of their third Big South title in the last four years Thursday, when they play No. 8 seed Gardner-Webb (5-26, 0-16 Big South) in the quarterfinal round of the Big South Volleyball Championship at 5 p.m. The entire tournament will be played at the Winthrop Coliseum in Rock Hill, S.C.
What's at Stake
The winner of Thursday's match will advance to a semifinal contest Friday at 7 p.m., versus the winner between No. 4 seed Winthrop and No. 5 seed Coastal Carolina. The championship match is set for Saturday at 2 p.m., with the victor advancing to the NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship.
How to Follow the Lady Flames
All seven matches of the 2010 Big South Volleyball Championship will be video streamed live via the Big South Network. Also, live stats will be provided for every match. Visit LibertyFlames.com for links and more information.
Looking Back at Last Year
The 2009 Lady Flames advanced to the championship match for the third consecutive year before falling, 3-1, to Coastal Carolina. Liberty swept Gardner-Webb, 3-0, before overcoming Charleston Southern, 3-2, in the semifinals. Nicki Scripko and Karyl Bacon were the two Liberty representatives on the All-Tournament Team.
Gardner-Webb enters the Big South Championship with a 5-26 overall record and remains winless with a 0-16 mark in conference play. The Bulldogs' last win came on Oct. 12, when they swept North Carolina A&T, 3-0, in Greensboro, N.C. That win snapped a 10-match losing streak.
Gardner-Webb has a young squad this year, with no seniors, three juniors, four sophomores and five freshmen. Sophomore middle blocker Laura Wilcox, the 2008 Big South Freshman of the Year, leads the team with a .230 attack percentage, while junior setter Evan Moffitt ranks eighth in the conference with 7.89 assists per set. In addition, freshman Tyler Cockrell ranks No. 2 in the Big South, averaging 1.09 blocks per set.
The Coaching Matchup
Liberty Head Coach Shane Pinder is 127-99 in his seventh season with the Lady Flames. The 2007 Big South Coach of the Year has guided Liberty to four straight Big South regular-season titles and back-to-back tournament championships in 2007 and 2008. The Lady Flames are 95-38 in the past four seasons under his direction, including 8-0 versus Gardner-Webb.
Chris Phillips is 58-130 in her sixth season as Gardner-Webb's head coach and 403-399 in 22 total seasons as a collegiate head coach. She coached Liberty for a total of 11 seasons (1992-97, 1999-2003), leading the Lady Flames to Big South titles in 1997, 1999 and 2001. She is 0-8 coaching against Liberty.
Liberty-Gardner-Webb Series Notes
Liberty is 9-0 all-time versus Gardner-Webb, after sweeping the teams' regular-season series this season. The Lady Flames swept both meetings this year, taking the 3-0 decision on Sept. 24 in Boiling Springs, N.C., before defeating the visiting Bulldogs at the Vines Center on Oct. 23.
The Lady Flames and Bulldogs are meeting in the Big South quarterfinal round for the third consecutive season. In 2008, Liberty claimed a 3-0 victory in Gardner-Webb's first-ever Big South Championship contest, and did the same in 2009.
Alone at the Top
2010 marks the fourth consecutive year that Liberty has held at least a share of the Big South regular-season title, as the Lady Flames are the lone champion with a 14-2 conference mark this season. The Lady Flames have now won four consecutive regular-season conference titles for the first time in program history.
A New Program Mark
The Lady Flames' 14 Big South wins marks the most in program history, and ties for the most wins in Big South history. Radford picked up 14 victories in 2001, while Winthrop posted 14 conference wins in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Up For the Challenge
Prior to falling to the Winthrop Eagles on the road, 3-1 on Oct. 30, the Lady Flames were on a two-match winning streak at Winthrop Coliseum. Liberty hadn't lost a match at the venue since Sept. 29, 2007, when the Eagles walked away with a 3-1 win on their home court.
They've got Momentum...
The Lady Flames enter the 2010 Big South Championship on a three-match winning streak, after beating Coastal Carolina, Radford and UNC Asheville in the month of November to conclude the regular season. Liberty's last loss was a 3-1 decision on the road to Winthrop on Oct. 30.