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Lady Flames Set to Compete in Kent State Classic

September 5, 2012
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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The Liberty volleyball team competes in Ohio for the first time since 2007, taking part in the Kent State Mizuno Classic.

Complete Match Notes

The Liberty volleyball team visits the state of Ohio for the first time since 2007, where the Lady Flames will take part in the Kent State Mizuno Classic on Friday and Saturday. Liberty meets Saint Francis (Pa.) at 1 p.m. on Friday to open the tournament.

The Lady Flames are currently on a six-match winning streak, one which was extended this past weekend with a 3-0 showing at the Holiday Inn Select/UCF Classic. Liberty won a pair of five-set matches, including a thrilling 3-2 win over the host Knights, Saturday.

Liberty (6-1) and Kent State (2-4) are both coming off of five-set victories in their most recent match, with the Lady Flames downing UCF and the Golden Flashes beating South Florida. Saint Francis (Pa.) (3-4) lost to Duquesne in its last match, while Marshall (4-4) snapped a four-match winless streak with a win over Morehead State on Wednesday.

Liberty is 2-0 all-time against St. Francis and 2-6 versus Marshall. The Lady Flames meet Kent State for the first time.

How to Follow the Lady Flames
Live stats will be available for all matches at this weekend's invitational, through links on LibertyFlames.com. Live stats are courtesy of Kent State Athletic Communications. Fans can also follow the action through periodic Twitter updates by following @libertyflames.

Quick Hits
- Liberty brings a six-match winning streak to Ohio for the Kent State Mizuno Classic.

- Team is in midst of nine-match road swing (next home match: Sept. 21 vs. Radford)

- The Lady Flames went 3-0 in Orlando this past weekend, winning UCF Classic.

- Loren Thomas was named UCF Classic MVP and Big South Player of the Week

- Gabrielle Shipe was tabbed Big South Defensive Player of the Week on Tuesday.

- Liberty won a pair of 3-2 matches this weekend (18-4 in five-set matches since 2009).

- Thomas, Caroline Douglas and Ansley Gebben named to all-tournament team at UCF.

- Head coach Shane Pinder moved into 5th in Big South history with 155th win, Saturday.

- The team was voted to repeat as Big South champions in the preseason coaches poll.

- Loren Thomas was named the 2012 Big South Preseason Player of the Year.

- Liberty is 2-0 against St. Francis, 2-6 versus Marshall and 0-0 against Kent State.

Big South Player and Defensive Player of the Week
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 helped the Lady Flames to a 4-0 week.

For the week, Thomas totaled 23 blocks, good for a 1.28 blocks per set average and 2.33 kills per set, hitting .316. Thomas posted 10 or more kills in all three matches in Florida and totaled a season-high nine blocks on Tuesday against William & Mary

She averaged 3.94 digs per set and led the Lady Flames in digs in each match 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.

UCF Recap
The Lady Flames went 3-0 in winning the Holiday Inn Select/UCF Classic this past weekend. Senior middle blocker Loren Thomas was named tournament MVP and joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Ansley Gebben and Caroline Douglas.

Gebben led the Lady Flames with 2.79 kills per set at the invitational, followed by Douglas and Thomas with 2.57 apiece.

Gebben, Thomas and Gabrielle Shipe were playing in front of a hometown crowd, as they were high school teammates at The First Academy.

In the championship match on Saturday, the Lady Flames posted 12 team blocks, including six each from Thomas, Jade Craycraft and Kendle Rollins.

Down to the Wire
Liberty is 2-1 in five-set matches this season, winning a pair of 3-2 decisions this past weekend. The Lady Flames fell behind, 2-0, to Jacksonville on Aug. 31 before rallying to win, 3-2, and then defeated UCF by a 3-2 count in the championship match on Saturday.

Liberty is 18-4 in five-set matches since 2009, including 6-0 last season. In each of the last four seasons, the team has won at least one match when trailing, 2-0, in sets.

Dig In
During Saturday's 3-2 win over UCF in the championship match of the Holiday Inn Select/UCF Classic, four Lady Flames collected 15 or more digs, led by Gabrielle Shipe's 17. Lillie Happel, Becca Haraf and Ansley Gebben all recorded 15 digs.

The last time four Lady Flames registered 15+ digs in the same match was Oct. 21, 2011 at Winthrop, when Kelly Haseman paced the team with 25 digs. Haseman was followed by Jad Craycraft (16), Gebben (15) and Happel (15).

Junior setter Jade Craycraft had a standout weekend in Orlando, averaging 10.1 assists per set during the UCF Classic, while dishing out 40 or more assists in each match.

She recorded 49 assists against Jacksonville and followed with a season-high 52 assists against Columbia, before totaling 41 assists versus UCF. It marked the second time that Craycraft has registered 40 or more assists in three consecutive matches, as she also did so Nov. 6-13, 2010. Additionally, she now has seven 50-assist matches in her career.

Liberty vs. Saint Francis (Pa.)
All-Time Series:
Liberty leads, 2-0
Current Streak: Liberty W2
Last Meeting: Liberty 3, Saint Francis (Pa.) 0 (9/9/11 - Lynchburg, Va.)

Saint Francis (3-4) opened its 2012 campaign with a 3-2 win over West Virginia on Aug. 24, and has added five-set wins against Murray State and the Citadel. Hannah Kutny, who leads the team with 2.86 kills per set, was named Northeast Conference Rookie of the Week on Tuesday. Elizabeth Williams paces the Red Flash with 0.90 blocks per set, while Alanna Blenkam dishes out 10.00 assists per set.

Liberty is 2-0 all-time against the Red Flash, sweeping them on Sept. 5, 2008 and again Sept. 9, 2011. In 2008, the Lady Flames defeated SFU behind a then program-record .483 attack percentage. Last year, Liberty downed the Red Flash during the Liberty Invitational presented by Pepsi, with Lillie Happel leading the hosts with 14 kills.

Liberty vs. Kent State
All-Time Series:
First Meeting

Kent State brings a 2-4 record into play this weekend after going 1-2 at both of its first two early season tournaments, at IPFW and N.C. State. The Golden Flashes downed South Florida in five sets in their most recent match, Saturday. Under the guidance of first-year head coach Don Gromola, Kent State is led in kills by Kelly Hutchison, at 3.57, and Tinuke Aderemi-Ibitola (3.00 kps). Aleksandra Nowak paces KSU with 9.38 assists per set, while Liz Reikow averages 1.05 blocks per set.

Liberty vs. Marshall
All-Time Series:
Marshall leads, 6-2
Current Streak: Marshall W1
Last Meeting: Marshall 3, Liberty 1 (9/18/93 - New Brunswick, N,J.)

After going 3-0 at its home tournament to open the campaign, Marshall has lost four matches in a row. Laura Der leads the team with 3.39 kills per set, followed by Katy Schad at 3.00 kills per set. Setter Sammie Bane, a 2011 Conference USA All Freshman Team member, leads Marshall with 8.81 assists per set. Mitch Jacobs, in his 11th season, has led the team to seven 20-win seasons and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2005.

Marshall holds a 6-2 all-time record against Liberty, a series which started in 1982. However, it has been nearly 19 years since these two teams have met on the volleyball court. On Sept. 18, 1993, the Herd defeated the Lady Flames, 3-1, at the Rutgers Tournament. During 1993, as is the case this year, Liberty had seven true freshmen on the roster.

Off and Running
The Lady Flames, at 6-1, are off to their second-best start to a season since joining the Big South Conference in 1991. In 2008, Liberty won its first eight matches in a row, on the way to a 25-9 record and a Big South championship.

In 1996, Liberty was 6-1 after seven matches, finishing with a 24-10 record.

The 1996 and 2008 Lady Flames are tied for the best 10-match start in the program's Division I history (since 1988), both going 8-2 through the first 10 matches.

Ohio Bound
Liberty competes in Ohio for the first time since 2007, when the Lady Flames went 2-1 at the Wright State Raider Challenge. Overall, the Lady Flames are 4-2 all-time in the state of Ohio during their NCAA Division I era, which began in 1988.

Two Lady Flames, Jade Craycraft (Wooster) and Kendle Rollins (Lebanon), are Ohio natives. As a high school junior, Rollins watched Liberty play at Wright State. Both Craycraft and Rollins were All-Ohio selections while in high school.

Prior to 2007, the most recent time that Liberty played a volleyball match in Ohio was Sept. 7-9, 2001, when the Lady Flames competed in a tournament at Xavier. Current assistant coach Jennifer Vaden posted the first 10-kill match (vs. Fairfield) and 20-kill match (vs. Alabama) of her career that weekend.