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Leading From the Back Row
The Liberty volleyball team continues its 2011 season this weekend in Raleigh, N.C., at the Courtyard Midtown Invitational, hosted by N.C. State.
The 2011 campaign has seen multiple highlights, including a championship at the Liberty Invitational. In addition, libero Kelly Haseman has climbed the career digs lists in both program and Big South history.
Below is a feature article on Haseman, a senior from Three Rivers, Mich., which first appeared in the Sept. 10 issue of Flames Illustrated, the official program for the Robert Morris at Liberty football game.
Senior libero Kelly Haseman earned a starting position as a freshman on a Big South championship-winning team, and is helping lead a youthful 2011 squad to further success. During the span of her career, she has carved out a place in the Liberty and Big South record books, and continues to strive for improvement.
Haseman came to Liberty looking to continue her pursuit in the medical field, and also for the chance to compete in volleyball at the Division I level. She attributes her arrival at Liberty to God's providence.
"Really, it was a very big God thing," Haseman said. "Little things fell into place. I kept feeling like God was just saying ‘You need to go to Liberty, without a scholarship. I'll provide for you.' Everything worked out. I was able to get a starting position and Coach Pinder was able to find me a scholarship."
Haseman's play has gotten noticed by coaches throughout the league, as she was named All-Big South and VaSID All-State second team after leading the league in digs per set in 2010. She was also voted to the 2011 Preseason All-Big South team. In 2009, she earned a spot on the Big South all-tournament team, one year after being a conference all-freshman team selection.
"She's a great serve-receive passer; we count on her to make plays back there," noted eighth-year head coach Shane Pinder. "She comes up with the digs at the right time, when the score is in the 20's and you need a play. You're going to have to make plays to win championships."
Haseman made a memorable debut at libero, earning the start in her third collegiate match, Aug. 30, 2008 vs. Maryland in the VCU Invitational. She led the team with 17 digs, helping the Lady Flames to a 3-1 win over the Terrapins. That match was part of a Liberty-record 8-0 start.
"I remember the very first tournament of my freshman year when I got to actually play libero," said Haseman. "My parents surprised me and they flew out and went to the tournament. Then Coach said ‘Let's change jerseys,' and that was my first time starting in my college career and I definitely will always remember that."
Haseman continued to play a key role in the Lady Flames' lineup, as the 2008 team went 25-9 and claimed its second Big South title in a row. She posted 10 digs in an NCAA Tournament first-round match at No. 4 Nebraska, a 3-1 Cornhuskers win.
"That was very exciting to be able to do that, especially playing Nebraska, a No. 4 national seed," added Haseman. "When we took a game off of them, that was probably one of the best moments that I remember having. I know the joy and great experience of playing in NCAA's. I'd love for more people to be able to fulfill that dream."
"She basically started from the time she got here," Pinder stated. "She's been on the court for a lot of big matches. She has been on a championship team, so she knows how it feels like to win a championship. She's a great leader and provides stability to our team in the back row."
The Kalamazoo, Mich., native writes out goals for herself prior to each season. She has attained her first goal, of recording more digs each season, and now Haseman is aiming for the 2,000 dig plateau. In 2010, she set a Liberty rally-scoring record with 653 digs. She has already reached 1,600 career digs, making her the ninth Big South player all-time with 1,600 or more digs. Nikki Keznor's program record of 1,739 digs is next on the list of goals.
"I like to make goals so I can have something that I'm working toward as well as pushing to make our team better," said Haseman. "Coming in as a freshman, I decided that I wanted to have more digs than the previous year during my career. Last year I reached my 1,000 goal mark and kept going, and now finding out that I'm capable of reaching the 2,000 mark, that's another goal that I'm trying to make."
The 2011 edition of the Lady Flames features 11 freshmen or sophomores, and Haseman is looked to as a leader on a young but talented squad. Liberty has been predicted to win its fifth straight Big South regular-season title.
"I'm just excited for the season," Haseman added. "I think we're going to do very well this year; we have a very strong team with a lot of good freshmen and sophomores. I think the program will definitely excel for years to come."
"She's one of the veterans on the floor," said Pinder. "We look to Kelly to help calm and guide the younger players. She knows the system, how we want to play points. Every day, she's setting the example for younger players. It's about the culture, how we interact and handle wins."
Haseman was able to play against her hometown Western Michigan team during the first weekend of September at the Holiday Inn West Invitational. She regularly attended Broncos volleyball matches while growing up in nearby Three Rivers, Mich., and dreamed of one day playing at the Division I level, especially for WMU. While in Kalamazoo, she broke into the top three all-time at Liberty with her 1,595th career dig.
"I am excited to be able to go home," said Haseman prior to the trip to Michigan. "I remember years and years of going to Western [Michigan]'s volleyball matches and wanting to play in college. I always love being there. I always had a dream of someday playing in that gym, and just to be able to go there and actually do that with my team is great."
Haseman is finishing up her degree in kinesiology at Liberty, and is currently seeking entry into graduate school for physical therapy. She is trusting the Lord for guidance as she enters the next phase of her life.
For now, Haseman will continue to lead the way for the Lady Flames from the back row, setting the example for her teammates with her conduct in and outside the arena.
Joe Carmany is an assistant athletics communications director for Liberty Athletics