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Lady Flames to Host Pair of Big South Matches
Complete Match Notes
Liberty hosts UNC Asheville to open the Big South home schedule Friday at 7 at the Vines Center. The Lady Flames then host Gardner-Webb Saturday at 2 p.m.
The Lady Flames (6-9, 1-0 Big South) began conference play with a win for the seventh year in a row, downing Radford, 3-2, Friday. UNC Asheville (7-6) enters with a 1-0 conference record, having beaten Gardner-Webb (4-11, 0-1) by a 3-2 score Friday.
Liberty is 14-6 all-time in its Big South home opener, but the Lady Flames have never faced UNC Asheville to begin the home portion of the conference season.
Liberty at a Glance
The Lady Flames downed Radford, 3-2, Friday in the first conference match of 2011. Liberty posted a program rally-scoring-record 20.5 blocks, besting the previous high of 18 while holding Radford to a .078 hitting percentage. Loren Thomas recorded 12 blocks and Jade Craycraft added 10 blocks at Radford.
Friday's match came on the heels of Liberty's season-high 85 digs at James Madison Sept. 20, highlighting a strong defensive week for the Lady Flames.
Liberty leads the Big South and ranks 28th in NCAA Division I with 2.59 blocks per set, following up a conference-leading 2.06 blocks per set in 2010.
How to Follow the Lady Flames
Both of this weekend's matches can be viewed through live video streaming via the Flames Sports Network and the Big South Network. Ray Jones will provide play-by-play, with Erin McKeown serving as the color analyst.
Thomas Named Big South Defensive Player of the Week
Junior middle blocker Loren Thomas was named Big South Defensive Player of the Week Monday. She recorded a program rally-scoring-record 12 block assists in a 3-2 conference-opening win at Radford Friday. Her 12 blocks topped the previous record of 11, set Oct. 11, 2003 vs. Winthrop by Erin McKeown and tied by Chelaine McCarty Nov. 1, 2008 at Gardner-Webb. Thomas added 11 kills at Radford for her first career double-double, and the first Liberty kills-blocks double-double since 2009.
Big South Home Opener
Liberty is 14-6 all-time in Big South home openers, and had won four conference home openers in a row before falling to Winthrop Oct. 1, 2010 in the Vines Center. That setback is Liberty's most recent loss in the Vines Center, a span of 10 matches. Under the direction of Pinder, the Lady Flames are 5-2 in conference home openers. Liberty is 34-4 in Big South home matches over the past five seasons.
Home Sweet Home
Liberty has been traditionally dominant at the Vines Center, having gone 87-30 at home since 2001. Starting in 2007, the Lady Flames have posted a 40-7 home record. Overall, Liberty is 55-22 in home matches under eighth-year head coach Shane Pinder.
The Lady Flames are in the midst of a 10-match home winning streak. They won the last seven matches in the Vines Center last season and opened the home slate with three wins in 2011. Liberty has posted five home winning streaks of 10 matches or more since 1989. The longest home winning skein in program history is 17 matches, from Oct. 15, 1996 through Sept. 18, 1998.
Just three out of Liberty's first 15 matches this season were at home, but the Lady Flames compete in eight out of their next 12 contests at the Vines Center.
The Lady Flames' 20.5 blocks Friday were the most by a Big South team since Radford recorded 25 against Siena Sept. 3, 2004.
Prior to Friday, only two Liberty players, Erin McKeown and Chelaine McCarty (twice), had posted 10 or more blocks in a match, a combined three times. Jade Craycraft and Loren Thomas then cracked double-digits in the same match Friday.
At The Top
Liberty ranks first in the Big South and is 28th in the nation with a 2.59 blocks per set average. Loren Thomas is second in the conference in blocks at 1.18 per set. Lillie Happel rates second with a 3.67 kills average and is tied fourth with 0.37 aces per set. Kendle Rollins ranks third in both blocks (1.11 bps) and in hitting percentage (.328).
Over the span of two matches this past week, six different Liberty players entered double-figures in digs in at least one match. Haseman (26), Happel (15) and Craycraft (14) all posted double-digit dig totals at JMU, aiding a team-season-high 85 dig effort.
Friday at Radford, Courtney Cooper led with a career-high 21 digs, Happel added 12, Gebben had a season-high 11 digs and Gabrielle Shipe collected 10 digs.
Liberty has had at least one player record a double-double in each of the last four matches. Most recently, Thomas (11 kills, 12 blocks), Craycraft (39 assists, 10 blocks) and Happel (11 kills, 12 digs) all had double-doubles Friday at Radford.
Craycraft recorded the first assists-blocks double-double in Liberty rally-scoring history Friday at RU. Thomas posted the first kills-blocks double-double by a Lady Flame since Chelaine McCarty had 14 kills and 11 blocks Nov. 1, 2008 at Gardner-Webb.
Liberty vs. UNC Asheville
UNC Asheville enters the weekend with a 7-6 record, and opened Big South play with a 3-2 win over Gardner-Webb last Friday. Cindi Miller sent down 23 kills and added 11 digs for the Bulldogs in the win over Gardner-Webb. The Bulldogs rank third in the Big South with a .188 hitting percentage under first-year head coach Frederico Santos.
Miller, the only returning member of the 2010 All-Big South first team, leads the Big South with a 3.77 kills per set average. 2010 Big South All-Freshman Team selection Alex Stewart is rated fourth in the conference with 4.60 digs per set. Jaimie Dorfman, with 0.37 aces per set, is second on the Big South aces list. Hallie Morse leads UNC Asheville with an 8.70 assists average. Anna Moore, at 0.67 blocks, is the Bulldogs' blocks leader.
Liberty is 28-19 all-time against UNC Asheville, including 9-8 versus the Bulldogs under Pinder. The Lady Flames have won each of the last two meetings, downing UNC Asheville 3-1 in Asheville Oct. 16, 2010 before a 3-2 Senior Night victory Nov. 13. Liberty's Nov. 13 win over the Bulldogs gave the team a Big South-record 14 wins, sealing the regular season title outright. Additionally, Kelly Haseman collected a program rally-scoring-record-tying 35 digs. UNC Asheville won both matches against Liberty in 2009.
Liberty vs. Gardner-Webb
Gardner-Webb (4-11) dropped its Big South opener, 3-2, at UNC Asheville. First year head coach Leo Sayles leads the Runnin' Bulldogs in search of their first road win, as Gardner-Webb plays at Radford Friday before Saturday's match in the Vines Center. Opponents hit just .162 against the Runnin' Bulldogs, the lowest in the Big South. Gardner-Webb also leads the Big South in aces per set (1.49) and digs per set (15.83)
Tyler Cockrell, a member of the 2010 Big South All-Freshman Team, leads the conference with 1.2 blocks per set. Senior Laura Wilcox, the 2008 Big South Freshman of the Year, paces the league with a .381 attack percentage. Wilcox recently totaled her 1,000th career kill. Libero Evan Moffitt, who recently passed the 1,000-career dig mark, posts 4.66 digs per set. Heather Feldman is second in the league in assists at 9.53 per set.
The Lady Flames own a 10-0 all-time record over Gardner-Webb. These two teams met in the first round of the Big South Championship in each of the last three seasons, with Liberty claiming a 3-0 sweep each time. Liberty has posted eight 3-0 sweeps of the Runnin' Bulldogs. Coach Pinder earned his 100th career win and Chelaine McCarty posted her 1,000th kill in a 3-0 win over Gardner-Webb Nov. 7, 2009.