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Shipe, Thomas Earn Big South Weekly Honors
Following a 4-0 week that included a championship at the Holiday Inn Select/UCF Classic, the Liberty volleyball team received two conference weekly awards. Senior middle blocker Loren Thomas was named Big South Volleyball Player of the Week, while sophomore libero Gabrielle Shipe earned Big South Defensive Player of the Week honors.
Thomas and Shipe, high school teammates at The First Academy in Orlando, both excelled in front of their hometown fans this past weekend, leading the Lady Flames to a 3-0 record at UCF.
The last time that two Lady Flames received Big South weekly awards on the same day was Oct. 3, 2011, when Lillie Happel was named Player of the Week and Thomas was tabbed Defensive Player of the Week.
Thomas earns her first Player of the Week award after being named Defensive Player of the Week twice last season. The Ocoee, Fla., native, was named tournament MVP at the Holiday Inn Select/UCF Classic. For the week, she totaled 23 blocks, good for a 1.28 blocks per set average, and added 2.33 kills per set at a .316 efficiency.
On Tuesday, Thomas posted a season-high nine blocks against William & Mary. She then recorded 14 kills, hitting .417 to help Liberty to a 3-2 win over Jacksonville on Friday. Thomas entered double-figures in kills during all three matches in Florida, capped by a 10-kill, six-block effort in the championship match against the host UCF Knights.
Shipe garners Defensive Player of the Week laurels for the first time in her career. She averaged 3.94 digs per set and added four aces during Liberty's 4-0 week. On Tuesday against William & Mary, she collected a career-high 22 digs, an average of 5.5 digs per set, to lead all players on the court.
Playing in her hometown of Orlando on the weekend, Shipe led the Lady Flames in digs during each match at the invitational. On Friday against Jacksonville, she totaled 18 digs in a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Jacksonville, and followed with 14 digs in a 3-1 win over Columbia. In the championship match against UCF, she totaled 17 digs.
The Lady Flames (6-1) are off to their best start since an 8-0 opening to the 2008 season. The team next heads to Ohio, the home state of Lady Flames Jade Craycraft and Kendle Rollins, to compete in the Kent State Mizuno Classic, held Friday and Saturday.