With the conclusion of the 2014 Liberty volleyball season, Alan York of Liberty Flames Sports Network (LFSN) recently caught up with 11th-year head coach Shane Pinder.
Liberty went 23-10 during the 2014 season, earning its seventh 20-win season in the last eight year. The Lady Flames registered a 12-win improvement over the 2013 campaign to regain their winning form. Liberty posted a 10-4 record in conference play, placing third in the Big South.
Pinder became Liberty's all-time winningest volleyball coach on Oct. 3 at Gardner-Webb, and then became the fourth volleyball head coach in Big South history with 200 or more wins the next day at UNC Asheville. He has won 208 matches (115 Big South) in 11 seasons, leading this team to four Big South regular-season titles, four conference tournament championships and four appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
The Lady Flames got off to their fastest-ever start to conference play, at 9-0, before going 1-4 in their final five regular-season matches due to injuries to key players.
Liberty reached 20 wins in their 25th match, downing Coastal Carolina on Oct. 18 to post their fastest start in program history. The Lady Flames were the second team in Division I to reach 20 wins this season, trailing only Colorado State.
The team sped to a 22-5 record to start the season, after going on a 13-match winning streak from September 20 through October 25. The Lady Flames' winning streak was its longest since a program-record 16-match winning streak in 2007.
Liberty posted a big, 3-2 win over Virginia on Sept. 23. It was Liberty's first victory against the Cavaliers since 1979, a span of 30 meetings. Redshirt junior Caroline Douglas sent down a match-high 27 kills, helping Liberty to a win in a matched aired on ESPN3.com.
On Oct. 18 at Coastal Carolina, the Lady Flames downed the eventual conference champion Chanticleers, 3-1. Douglas sent down 22 kills, becoming the 15th player to record 1,000 or more career kills. In the same match, freshman Hannah Weidner registered a career-high 20 kills, marking the first time since Nov. 12, 2011 at UNC Asheville that two Lady Flames recorded 20 kills in the same match.
The Lady Flames finished the season as the highest-scoring offense in the Big South, leading the conference in both kills per set (13.57) and assists per set (12.68). Liberty also ranked second in the Big South with a .232 attack percentage. For the fifth time in the last six years, Liberty placed four players on the Big South All-Conference teams, led by redshirt junior Caroline Douglas on the first team. Juniors Jade Vorster and Caila Stapleton made the second team along with freshman Hannah Weidner. Weidner was joined on the All-Freshman team by Sirena Vorster, while Stapleton was voted to the All-Academic team.
Redshirt junior Caroline Douglas had a dominant year, leading the Big South in kills per set while recording 10 20-kill matches and 10 double-doubles. She scored a career-high 29 kills on Sept. 12 against Central Connecticut, the second-most by a Lady Flame under the current rally-scoring format. She will enter her final year at Liberty ranked 15th in program history with 1,041 career kills.
Junior Jade Vorster made an immediate impact after transferring from Hawai'i. A two-time All-Big West selection before joining the Lady Flames, Vorster placed second in the Big South in blocks while setting a new program rally-scoring record with 32 solo blocks. Her 145 total blocks were the second most in a single-season in the program's rally-scoring history.
Freshman Hannah Weidner had a standout first year for the Lady Flames, placing second in the Big South Freshman of the Year voting. She ranked fifth in the conference in kills per set. Weidner posted a team-best 25 10-kill matches, including a program-record-tying 19 in a row at one point.
Junior Caila Stapleton took charge of the Liberty offense during her first season as starting setter. She led the Big South in assists per set. She paced the Lady Flames with 12 double-doubles, and recorded 11 straight 40-assist matches, from Sept. 20 through Oct. 18. Senior Gabrielle Shipe capped a successful career with 1,708 career digs, good for third all-time in program history. Her 542 digs this season were the fifth-most in a single season in program history.
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