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Lady Flames Open 2015 Volleyball Season with Liberty Invitational

August 27, 2015  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Lady Flames Open 2015 Volleyball Season with Liberty Invitational

Complete Match Notes

Liberty begins its 2015 volleyball season by hosting the Liberty Invitational presented by La Quinta Inns & Suites. The Lady Flames take on UNCG, Friday at 7 p.m. in their season opener at the Vines Center, while facing Fairleigh Dickinson and Hampton, Saturday.

This year's Liberty Invitational features three 20-win teams from 2014, in Liberty (23-10), Hampton (21-11) and UNCG (20-11). Hampton made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances as the MEAC champion, in 2013 and 2014.

Friday, Aug. 28
Hampton vs. Fairleigh Dickinson, 4:30 p.m. Live Stats
Liberty vs. UNCG, 7 p.m. Live Stats Live Video

Saturday, Aug. 29
UNCG vs. Hampton, 10 a.m. Live Stats
Liberty vs. Fairleigh Dickinson, 12:30 p.m. Live Stats Live Video
Fairleigh Dickinson vs. UNCG, 4:30 p.m. Live Stats
Liberty vs. Hampton, 7 p.m. Live Stats Live Video

How to Follow the Lady Flames
Live stats and live video will be available for this weekend's matches. Live stats will appear through StatBroadcast, courtesy of Liberty Athletics Communications. All three of Liberty's matches will be video streamed, free of charge, on the Big South Network and ESPN3.com. All Liberty matches will also appear on the Liberty Channel, with Ray Jones serving as play-by-play announcer and Erin Hagen providing analysis.

Starting Rotation
1.   Liberty posted a 23-10 record, finishing 10-4 and in third place in the Big South last season. The Lady Flames stormed out to a 22-5 start before injuries curtailed their campaign. Liberty was the second team in NCAA Division I to reach 20 wins last season.

2.   Shane Pinder, entering his 12th season as Liberty's head coach, became the program's all-time leader in career victories Oct. 3, 2014 at Gardner-Webb. At 208-149, Pinder ranks fourth all-time in Big South career coaching victories.

3.   Caroline Douglas returned to top form last season, leading the Big South with 4.22 kills per set while earning first team all-conference and all-state mention. The 2012 Big South Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year missed most of 2013 due to injury.

4.   Senior Jade Vorster returns after earning Big South All-Conference second team mention. Vorster also set a Liberty rally-scoring record with 32 solo blocks, averaging 1.18 blocks per set in her first season as a Lady Flame since transferring from Hawai'i.

5.   Hannah Weidner, the 2014 VaSID State Rookie of the Year, averaged 3.33 kills per set a year ago, and tied a program record with 19 straight 10-kill matches. The Big South All-Conference second team member saw her season end via injury at Radford, Oct. 31.

6.         Liberty has gone 7-20 in season openers during the NCAA Division I era, since 1988, including 4-7 under Pinder. The Lady Flames swept San Jose State, on Aug. 29, 2014, for the team's first season-opening win since 2009.

On the Attack
Redshirt senior outside hitter Caroline Douglas continued to lead the attack for the Lady Flames, leading the Big South with 4.22 kills per set while earning her second Big South All-Conference first team mention in 2014. She recorded 10 20-kill matches, 24 double-digit kill contests and 10 double-doubles last season. In 2012, she was named both Big South Player of the Year and Big South Freshman of the Year.

As a team, Liberty led the Big South with 13.57 kills per set, while also hitting .232 as a team.

Senior Haley Jeffcoat and sophomore Gabrielle Vess return on the outside. Jeffcoat made 11 starts at outside hitter last season, while Vess scored a career-high 12 kills in her second career start, Nov. 8 at Campbell.

Sydney Morris joins the Lady Flames after redshirting at James Madison in 2014. Morris was named the VHSL 1A State Player of the Year in 2013 for nearby Altavista.

Own the Net
Redshirt senior Jade Vorster made an immediate impact after transferring from Hawai'i last year. The two-time All-Big West selection placed second in the Big South in blocks at 1.18 per set while setting a new program rally-scoring record with 32 solo blocks. She also scored 273 kills, being named to the Big South All-Conference second team.

Sirena Vorster, a rising sophomore, was named to the Big South All-Freshman team as a freshman after finishing second on the team in both aces and blocks per set. Additionally, she posted six double-digit kill matches.

Junior Susan Babcock will also challenge for time in the middle. She posted a career-high five blocks during the 2013 Big South semifinal against Radford.     

Sydney Morris also spent time at middle blocker during her high school career.

Setting the Tone
Sophomore Anna Willey grabs the reins of the Liberty offense this season, entering the year as the front-runner to take the starting setter position. She showed promise last season, posting two 40-assist matches, two six-block contests and two double-doubles while backing up second team all-conference setter Caila Stapleton. Showing versatility, she averaged 8.54 assists, 0.79 blocks and 1.75 digs per set in 2014.

Rachel Morris, a sophomore from Liberty Christian Academy, will serve as the Lady Flames' backup setter, while also providing depth on the back row.

Dig In
The Lady Flames averaged 16.43 digs per set last season, thanks in part to 4.37 digs from graduated senior Gabrielle Shipe. Shipe finished her career ranked third in program history with 1,708 career digs.

Senior Allie Reynolds has the most experience among Liberty's returning defensive specialists, collecting 371 career digs. She started seven matches at libero as a sophomore, averaging 4.31 digs per set during that span. She has posted 14 double-digit dig matches in her career, including a career-high 24 digs at William and Mary in 2013.

Sophomore Hannah Williams made nine starts at DS last season, collecting 92 digs. Classmate Rachel Morris provides depth on the back row.

Liberty also welcomes four newcomers to the back line, in freshmen Sarah Downs and Margaret Latchford, sophomore Lindsay Foreman and junior college transfer Michelle Melendez. Latchford was a two-time all-state player at Princess Anne High School, while Downs was voted first team all-state as a senior at Liberty Christian Academy. Melendez played two seasons at Palm Beach State College, where she was named second team all-conference in 2014. Foreman, a native of Lauderhill, Fla., competed for UNCW as a freshman.

Right Side, Right Now
Sophomore Hannah Weidner had a standout freshman season on the right side, being named the 2014 VaSID State Rookie of the Year in addition to Big South All-Conference second team mention. The right-side hitter averaged 3.33 kills per set at a .275 pace. She recorded a team-best 25 double-digit kill matches, tying a team record with 19 straight 10-kill matches at one point.

Liberty vs. UNCG
All-Time Series:
UNCG leads, 11-9 Current Series Streak: Liberty W1
Last Meeting: Liberty 3, UNCG 2 (Sept. 6, 2014 - Lynchburg, Va.)
Last UNCG Victory: UNCG 3, Liberty 2 (Aug. 24, 2012 - NCCU Tourn., Durham, N.C.)
UNCG Head Coach (Yrs./record at school): Corey Carlin (2nd yr./20-11)
UNCG 2014 Record: 20-11, 11-5 Southern Conference

Liberty vs. Fairleigh Dickinson
All-Time Series:
Fairleigh Dickinson leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: FDU 3, Liberty 0 (Oct. 21, 1989 - Newark, Del.)
FDU Head Coach (Yrs./record at school): Stacey Recanati (25th yr./274-473)
FDU 2014 Record: 6-23; 4-10 Northeast Conference

Liberty vs. Hampton
All-Time Series:
Liberty leads, 8-0
Last Meeting: Liberty 3, Hampton 0 (Sept. 16, 1997 - Lynchburg, Va.)
Hampton Head Coach (Yrs./record at school): Janay Yancey (1st yr.)
Hampton 2014 Record: 21-11; 11-1 MEAC (MEAC Champion; NCAA qualifier)

Home Cooking
The Lady Flames are 20-5 (.800) in their last 25 home matches, and 43-7 (.860) in their last 50 home contests, spanning the 2010 through 2014 seasons. Liberty is 87-28 (.756) at home under 11th-year head coach Shane Pinder.

Liberty is 9-2 in home openers under Pinder, and 19-7 in the initial home match of the season since 1989. Last year, the Lady Flames won their home opener for the sixth year in a row, a 3-0 sweep over Howard, Sept. 5 to kick off the 2014 Liberty Invitational.