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Liberty Athletics Title IX 40th Anniversary Celebration - Volleyball
In conjunction with the Big South's year-long initiative, LibertyFlames.com will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Title IX through a series of stories and videos which spotlight each of Liberty's women's athletics teams, one per month throughout the 2012-13 academic year. This month, the spotlight will be on the volleyball team.
The Liberty volleyball team, founded in 1976 as the university's second intercollegiate sport for women, quickly grew into a highly-successful program. Brenda Bonheim, also Liberty's first women's basketball coach, led the Lady Flames to a 7-7 record in their inaugural season, and Liberty won 20 or more matches in each of her final two seasons, 1979 and 1980.
The mid-1980s saw the Lady Flames post back-to-back 30-win seasons under Beth Dalton, going 34-23 in 1983 and 30-16 in 1984. Sue Kelly led the Lady Flames to three straight 20-win seasons, culminating in a 24-8 record during Liberty's first season of Division I volleyball, 1988. From 1987-90, Theresa Bream stood out, becoming Liberty's first all-region volleyball player in 1990. Bream would go on to be inducted in the second class of the Liberty Athletics Hall of Fame, in 2010.
The Lady Flames entered the Big South Conference in 1991, where they were led by Chris Phillips for 12 out of the next 13 seasons. During that span, the Lady Flames posted seven 20-win seasons, including four in a row, from 1996-99. Liberty made its first-ever appearance in the Big South Volleyball Championship final in 1992, the first of 11 conference final finishes in the Lady Flames' 21 years to date in the Big South. The Lady Flames claimed their first conference tournament title in 1997, advancing to the NCAA Tournament against Notre Dame. Liberty added titles in 1999 and 2001 as well.
In 2004, former assistant coach Shane Pinder took over the helm as head coach. He has led the Lady Flames to further success, coaching Liberty's first two volleyball All-Americans. Over the last five seasons, Pinder has guided the team to five Big South regular-season titles, five 20-win seasons and five appearances in the conference final match. On Oct. 27, 2007 at the Vines Center, the Lady Flames swept Winthrop in front of a then-conference record 1,583 fans, ending the Eagles' 63-match conference winning streak during a 16-match winning streak of their own. Liberty has claimed the Big South volleyball title in 2007, 2008 and 2011 under Pinder's leadership, making the Lady Flames the winningest program in conference history.
Years of Competition: 37 (1976-Present)
Total Wins: 680 Wins
Conference Championships: 6 (Big South: 1997, 1999, 2001, 2007, 2008, 2011)
• CoSIDA Academic All-District: 5
• CoSIDA Academic All-Americans: 1
• All-Americans: 2
• All-Region: 6
• All-State: 22
• Players of the Year: 5
• All-Conference: 42
Total Number of Participants: 177
Title IX Anniversary – Top Liberty Volleyball Moments
Fall, 1976 vs. Ferrum – Liberty plays its first volleyball match
Liberty's second women's sport, volleyball, began its existence with a 2-1 win over Ferrum in its first-ever match. Under the direction of Brenda Bonheim, who was also Liberty's first women's basketball coach, the Lady Flames went 7-7 in their inaugural season. Bonheim led Liberty volleyball to its first two 20-win seasons (26-11 in 1979, 22-18 in 1980) over five years as head coach.
Sept. 9, 1988 vs. VCU – Liberty earns first win as NCAA Division I volleyball program
The Lady Flames swept VCU, 3-0, for their first win as an NCAA Division I program, in just their second match at the Division I level. Liberty Athletics Hall of Famer Theresa Bream competed for Liberty in that match. The Lady Flames, under the direction of Sue Kelly, posted a 24-8 record that season, the first of 13 20-win seasons for Liberty volleyball in its Division I era.
Nov. 15, 1997 – Liberty claims first Big South title
Top-seeded Liberty swept No. 2 seed UMBC, 3-0 (15-6, 15-6, 15-1) in the Big South Volleyball Championship final, to capture the Lady Flames' first-ever Big South title. Ashley Fletcher was honored as Big South Tournament MVP. On Dec. 5, the Lady Flames then made their first appearance in the NCAA Volleyball Championship, traveling to Fayetteville, Ark., to face Notre Dame. The 1997 team set a then-program NCAA Division I record with 26 victories.
Oct. 27, 2007 – Liberty snaps Winthrop's conference winning streak in front of record crowd
Liberty swept Winthrop in front of then-Big South record 1,583 fans in the Vines Center, ending Winthrop's 63-match conference winning streak. With the victory, Liberty capped an undefeated month of October, in which the Lady Flames won all 30 sets played. The Lady Flames extended their winning streak to a program-best 16 matches, and went on to win their fourth Big South Championship title. The team went 27-9, with an 11-1 mark in Big South play.
Nov. 20, 2011 – Liberty wins conference-record 6th Big South volleyball championship
The top-ranked Lady Flames downed third-seeded Radford, 3-0, in the Big South Volleyball Championship final match. In the process, Liberty won its Big South-record sixth conference championship, with Loren Thomas being named tournament MVP. The Lady Flames traveled to University Park, Pa., on Dec. 2, to face then four-time defending national champion Penn State.