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Liberty to Open Big South Championship with No. 8 Seed Gardner-Webb
Complete Tournament Notes
Big South Tournament Central
Liberty (17-12, 12-2 Big South) enters the 2011 Big South Volleyball Championship presented by Musco Sports Lighting as the No. 1 seed. For the fourth season in a row, the Lady Flames will open the conference tournament against Gardner-Webb (10-19, 5-9), this year's No. 8 seed. Liberty and Gardner-Webb will meet on Thursday at Noon at the CSU Fieldhouse in Charleston, S.C.
What's at Stake
The winner of Thursday's match will advance to a semifinal contest Friday at 4:30 p.m., versus the winner of the match between No. 4 seed UNC Asheville and No. 5 seed Campbell. The championship match is set for Sunday 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 2011 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.
Tournament Quick Points
The Lady Flames are 29-15 all-time in Big South tournament competition, holding the conference record for tournament victories (29) and finals appearances (10). Liberty and Winthrop are tied for the league record for Big South tournament titles with five each.
Liberty won the Big South Tournament title in 1997, 1999, 2001, 2007 and 2008.
The Lady Flames have qualified for the conference final match during each of the last four seasons, including championship runs in 2007 and 2008.
This is the first time since 1999 that all rounds of the Big South Championship will be held in Charleston, S.C. The Lady Flames won the championship with a 3-2 victory over No. 1 seed Radford that season.
Liberty is 11-3 in Big South tournament play as the No. 1 seed, winning championships in 1997, 2007 and 2008 at the top seed in the field.
Liberty vs. Gardner-Webb
Liberty holds an 11-1 record all-time against Gardner-Webb, including a 3-0 mark in Big South Championship play. In fact, Liberty is the only team that Gardner-Webb has faced in the conference tournament during the Runnin' Bulldogs' four-year membership in the Big South.
The Lady Flames and Runnin' Bulldogs split the season series this year. Liberty won a 3-2 match over Gardner-Webb, Oct. 1 at the Vines Center, and Gardner-Webb posted a 3-0 sweep of the Lady Flames Nov. 11 at Paul Porter Arena.
Liberty ranks first in the Big South in blocks, while Gardner-Webb leads the league in service aces.
Loren Thomas paces the conference in blocks per set, and Gardner-Webb's Tyler Cockrell is in second.
Both teams have a former Big South Freshman of the Year in their lineup. Gardner-Webb senior middle blocker Laura Wilcox was the 2008 freshman of the year, while Liberty's sophomore setter, Jade Craycraft earned the top freshman award last season.
Last season, Liberty posted a 3-0 sweep over No. 8 seed Gardner-Webb in the quarterfinals. The Lady Flames then overcame a 2-0 deficit to down host Winthrop in the semifinals, 3-2, before falling to No. 2 seed High Point in the finals. Liberty has won five five-set matches all-time in Big South Tournament play, winning three times when trailing, 2-0.
During Liberty's 3-2 Big South semifinal victory over Winthrop last season, Jade Craycraft posted the first triple-double by a Liberty player under the current 25-point scoring format. She earned a spot on the Big South all-tournament team alongside Karyl Bacon.
2011 Season Highlights
The Lady Flames went 7-0 at home against Big South opponents, running their conference home winning streak to 14 matches.
Liberty downed Winthrop, 3-2, Oct. 21 in Rock Hill, in a battle of 6-1 Big South teams. That win put the Lady Flames' tournament seeding in their own destiny.
The team posted a 3-0 sweep of High Point on Senior Day, avenging Liberty's lone league loss to that point while winning the final home match for the fifth year in a row.
Liberty clinched a share of the regular-season title in thrilling fashion, overcoming an 11-8 fifth-set deficit to beat UNC Asheville, in the regular-season finale, Nov. 12.
By the Numbers
1 - The Lady Flames lead the Big South and are ranked No. 53 in the nation with 2.45 blocks per set. Junior Loren Thomas is 21st in the nation at 1.36 blocks per set.
2 - Liberty has broken two single-match team records this season. On Sept. 17 vs. The Citadel, the Lady Flames hit .484, breaking the previous Liberty record of .483. The team posted a program rally-scoring-record 20.5 blocks Sept. 23 at Radford.
3 - Loren Thomas needs three more blocks to tie Erin McKeown (2000-03) for third place in program history with 341 career blocks.
4 - Kelly Haseman ranks fourth all-time in Big South history with 1,920 career digs, after passing Jeanne Lambert of Coastal Carolina on Saturday.
5 - The Lady Flames have won a conference-record five Big South regular-season championships in a row. Liberty has also won 10+ conference matches for five years running.
6 - Six different Lady Flames have led the team in digs at least once this season, after Kelly Haseman led the squad in digs during all 34 matches last season.
7 - Liberty went on a season-best seven match winning streak, going one month (Oct. 11 vs. VCU to Nov. 11 at Gardner-Webb) in between losses.
13 - Loren Thomas broke her own Liberty rally-scoring record with 13 blocks Oct. 21 at Winthrop.
14 - Liberty has won its last 14 five-set matches against Big South opponents.
15 - The Lady Flames have won their last 15 regular-season finales, including the last three by 3-2 scores.
20 - Lillie Happel recorded 21 kills and a career-high 23 digs during Liberty's 3-2 win at UNC Asheville on Saturday. Loren Thomas sent down a career-best 20 kills. Kelly Haseman earned a season-high 28 digs. Additionally, Liberty's match-winning rally started on point 20 of set five, as Liberty trailed, 11-8 and won, 15-13.