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Coach of the Year Award Headlines Four Liberty All-State Honors
Liberty Head Volleyball Coach Shane Pinder highlighted Liberty's four Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID) University Division Volleyball All-State honorees, being named VaSID State Coach of the Year today.
Junior middle blocker Loren Thomas earned All-State first team mention, while sophomore outside hitter Lillie Happel and senior libero Kelly Haseman were tabbed to the second team.
Liberty joined Virginia as the only teams with three players listed on the 12-member All-State team. This marks the fifth season in a row in which the Lady Flames have placed three players on the VaSID squad.
Pinder receives his third career VaSID State Coach of the Year award, as he also was named the top coach in the Commonwealth in 2007 and again in 2008. During his eighth year at the helm in 2011, he led the Lady Flames to their Big South-record fifth straight conference regular-season title. With an 84-32 conference record, Pinder holds the Liberty record for Big South volleyball career coaching wins.
Thomas, a native of Ocoee, Fla., earns her first All-State honor. This season, she was named Big South Tournament MVP, in addition to being a first-team all-conference selection. Thomas led the Big South with a program rally-scoring-record 155 blocks. A three-time Big South Defensive Player of the Week, she registered a Liberty rally-scoring record with 12 blocks Sept. 23 at Radford, and raised the record to 13, Oct. 21 at Winthrop.
Happel, hailing from Ellicott City, Md., is on the All-State squad for the first time. A 2011 Big South All-Conference first team selection, she earned mention on four all-tournament teams this season, culminating in an appearance on the Big South All-Tournament Team. She recorded a career-high 12 double-doubles and led the Lady Flames with 3.38 kills per set. Happel was named Big South Player of the Week twice this season.
A Three Rivers, Mich., native, Haseman makes a repeat appearance among the All-State players, after earning second-team mention in 2010. A two-time all-conference libero, she also was named to the Big South All-Tournament Team for the second time in her career. Haseman finished her career as Liberty's record holder, and is fourth in conference history with 1,989 career digs. She placed second in the Big South with 4.47 digs per set this season.
In addition to Pinder's Coach of the Year award, two other major honors were handed out when the team was announced earlier today. James Madison's Natalie Abel, a redshirt junior outside hitter, was named the 2011 Virginia State Player of the Year. Emma Deininger, a middle blocker from Radford and the 2011 Big South Freshman of the Year, was tabbed the state freshman of the year as well.
Liberty went 20-13, including a 12-2 mark in conference play, and won the Big South Tournament Championship a conference-record sixth time, and first since 2008. The Lady Flames were the only Commonwealth school represented in the 2011 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship, facing four-time defending national champion Penn State.
2011 VaSID University Division All-State Volleyball Team
Player of the Year: Natalie Abel, James Madison
Rookie of the Year: Emma Deininger, Radford
Coach of the Year: Shane Pinder, Liberty
Natalie Abel, R-Jr., OH, James Madison
Simone Asque, Sr., OH, Virginia
Cara Baarendse, Jr., MB, Virginia Tech
Kristin Boyd, Jr., OH, VCU
Rachel Brummitt, Fr., L, Radford
Loren Thomas, Jr., MB, Liberty
Cecilia Aragao, Fr., S, VCU
Emma Deininger, Fr., MB, Radford
Lillie Happel, So., OH, Liberty
Kelly Haseman, Sr., L, Liberty
Jessica O'Shoney, Jr., MB, Virginia
Beth Wildermuth, Jr., S, Virginia