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Liberty Set to Close Out Regular Season in N.C.
Complete Match Notes
The Big South-leading Liberty volleyball team (16-11, 11-1 Big South) returns to the road to conclude the regular season schedule this weekend, competing at Gardner-Webb (9-18, 4-8) on Friday before a Saturday showdown against UNC Asheville (14-11, 7-5).
The Runnin' Bulldogs took Liberty to the limit during their first meeting this season, as the Lady Flames won, 3-2, Oct. 1 at the Vines Center. Liberty swept UNC Asheville, 3-0, Sept. 30 in the Vines Center, out-hitting the Bulldogs, percentage-wise, .252 to .122.
Liberty at a Glance
Liberty earned a 3-2 victory over Campbell on Friday before avenging its lone league loss so far this season, with a 3-0 win over High Point on Saturday. Lillie Happel came through with six kills and a block assist during Liberty's 16-14 set five win on Friday.
The Lady Flames won during their regular-season home finale for the sixth season in a row, sending seniors Courtney Boggs, Courtney Cooper, Kelly Haseman and Rebecca Warren out with a win against High Point on Senior Day.
The team has won its last 14 regular season finales, dating back to the 1997 season.
Liberty enters the weekend on a seven-match winning streak, its longest of the season, and longest for the team since an eight-match winning skein during October, 2010.
The Lady Flames lead the Big South standings, at 11-1, followed by Winthrop at 11-2. With either one Liberty win, or a Winthrop loss on Friday, Liberty will earn its fifth straight Big South regular-season title. Winthrop won four straight conference regular-season titles from 2004-07, but no team has posted five straight Big South regular-season crowns.
Liberty ranks first in the Big South and is 43rd in the nation with a 2.51 blocks per set average. Loren Thomas ranks 19th nationally with 1.36 blocks per set.
Thomas is currently fourth in program history with 328 career blocks, and has set a program single-season rally-scoring record with 131 blocks this season.
How to Follow the Lady Flames
Live stats will be available for both of this weekend's matches, and can be accessed through links on LibertyFlames.com.
Junior middle blocker Loren Thomas has set two program rally-scoring records this season. With three blocks Saturday against High Point, she broke Ashley Webber's record for blocks in a single season, with 131. Thomas broke the rally-scoring single-match record with 12 blocks Sept. 23 at Radford, and then raised it to 13, Oct. 21 at Winthrop.
Kelly Haseman holds the Liberty all-time record with 1,878 career digs. She also holds the program's single-season rally-scoring record with 653 digs in 2010, and tied Lara Bartolomeo's single-match record with 35 digs Nov. 13, 2010 against UNC Asheville.
The Lady Flames hit .484 during a 3-0 sweep of The Citadel, Sept. 17 in Raleigh, setting the Liberty record for hitting percentage in a single match. With 20.5 blocks at Radford on Sept. 23, the team broke the program single-match rally-scoring record of 18 blocks.
Moving on Up
Kelly Haseman is scaling the Big South's all-time digs leaderboard, currently sitting in fifth place. She is 38 digs away from tying Jeanne Lambert of Coastal Carolina (1998-02) for fourth in league history.
Loren Thomas advanced to fourth place in program history with 328 career blocks. She is 14 blocks shy of passing current Liberty Director of Compliance Erin McKeown (2000-03) into third place at Liberty in career blocks.
On the Attack
Liberty attacked at a .279 pace in a 3-0 sweep against High Point on Saturday, marking the Lady Flames' highest hitting percentage during a match in conference play this season. Melissa Racz led the way with 12 kills, hitting .500, good for her third 12-kill match during the last five matches. Erica Manor and Loren Thomas each hit .375 on Saturday.
Five Liberty players chipped in eight or more kills during Liberty's sweep of High Point, Saturday. Saturday was the first time this season that five Lady Flames recorded eight or more kills in the same match. The last time five Liberty players recorded eight or more kills in the same match was Oct. 29, 2010 at Charleston Southern, when five Lady Flames entered double-figures in kills.
5 Sets Again
Liberty defeated Radford, 3-2, on Oct. 28, and then beat Campbell in five sets during the team's next match. Prior to that, the last time Liberty had won by a 3-2 score in back-to-back matches was Nov. 1-2, 2002, at Charleston Southern and Coastal Carolina.
Gabrielle Shipe collected 18 digs during a 3-0 sweep of UNC Asheville, Sept. 30. Her 18 digs are the most by a Liberty freshman since Lillie Happel had 18 digs, Nov. 6, 2010 at Coastal Carolina. With 22 digs Nov. 11, 2008 at High Point, Kelly Haseman is the last Liberty freshman with 19 or more digs during a three-set match.
The Lady Flames, at 11-1 in conference play, have posted double-digit Big South victories for the fifth year in a row. Prior to 2007, Liberty had won 10 conference matches four times in their first 16 seasons in the Big South. Winthrop holds the Big South record for consecutive 10-conference-win seasons, at eight, from 2000-07.
The Lady Flames conclude the regular season on Saturday at UNC Asheville. Liberty has won its final match prior to the Big South Championship during each of the last 14 seasons, dating back to 1997. During the last two regular-season finales, Liberty has claimed victory in five sets. The Lady Flames beat Charleston Southern, 3-2, Nov. 14, 2009 in Charleston, and then downed UNC Asheville, 3-2, Nov. 13, 2010 at home.
Liberty vs. Gardner-Webb
Gardner-Webb (9-18), under the direction of first-year head coach Leo Sayles, is tied for seventh in the Big South at 4-8. The Runnin' Bulldogs posted a win over Winthrop, Oct. 7, joining Liberty as the only conference teams to down Winthrop in 2011. Gardner-Webb leads the Big South in aces per set, at 1.58, and ranks third in the conference in blocks.
Tyler Cockrell is second in the conference with 1.28 blocks per set. Senior Laura Wilcox, the 2008 Big South Freshman of the Year, ranks second in the league with a .350 attack percentage. Libero Evan Moffitt posts 4.14 digs and 0.31 aces per set, ranking fourth in digs and sixth in aces. Heather Feldman is tied for second in the league in assists at 9.38 per set. Lauren Evans paces Gardner-Webb with 2.71 kills per set.
The Lady Flames own an 11-0 all-time record over Gardner-Webb. The last meeting between the two teams went the distance, with Liberty prevailing, 3-2, Oct. 1 in the Vines Center. Lillie Happel had 22 kills, while Ansley Gebben registered a career-high 16 kills. Liberty downed Gardner-Webb, 3-2, at Paul Porter Arena in both 2008 and 2009. Shane Pinder earned his 100th career win in a 3-0 home win over Gardner-Webb, Nov. 7, 2009.
Liberty vs. UNC Asheville
UNC Asheville (14-11, 7-5 Big South) enters the weekend in a tie with Radford for third place in the Big South after dropping matches to Winthrop and Presbyterian College. The Bulldogs rank second in the conference with a .187 attack percentage, and are third in assists (11 aps), kills (11.94 kps), service aces (1.5 saps) and digs (15.29 dps).
Cindi Miller, the only returning member of the 2010 All-Big South first team, is second in the Big South with a 3.58 kills per set average. Alex Stewart is rated second in the conference at 4.58 digs per set. Jaimie Dorfman, with 0.38 aces per set, is second on the Big South aces list. Hallie Morse leads UNC Asheville with a 9.19 assists average. Anna Moore leads the team with 0.82 blocks per set and averages 2.56 kills.
Liberty is 29-19 all-time against UNC Asheville, including 10-8 versus the Bulldogs under Pinder. The Lady Flames have won each of the last three meetings, including a 3-0 sweep, Sept. 30 at the Vines Center, in which Gabrielle Shipe collected a career-high 18 digs. For the second year in a row, Liberty closes the regular season against UNC Asheville, as the Lady Flames defeated the Bulldogs, 3-2, Nov. 13, 2010 at the Vines Center.