Following the conclusion of the 2015 volleyball season, Alan York of the Liberty Flames Sports Network recently caught up with 12th-year Head Coach Shane Pinder.
The Lady Flames posted a 14-14 record in 2015, placing third in the Big South with a 9-5 conference record. This is the 10th year in a row that the Lady Flames have recorded nine or more conference wins in a season. Liberty is 112-32 (.778) in Big South play over the last 10 seasons.
Pinder, the Lady Flames' all-time record holder for career coaching wins, is ranked third among all Big South volleyball coaches with 222 career victories. He needs just two more wins to move into second place all-time in conference history.
Liberty opened the season at 3-0 for the first time since 2008, sweeping the season-opening Liberty Invitational. The Lady Flames then dropped seven out of the next eight against a challenging slate of opponents that included three NCAA tournament qualifiers (Loyola Marymount, Missouri and Northern Arizona) and 20-win teams Appalachian State and Chattanooga.
Liberty opened conference play with a 3-1 win at Radford, Sept. 25, sparking a five-match winning streak as the Lady Flames went 8-2 in their next 10 matches. The Lady Flames rallied from a 6-1, fifth-set deficit to down Campbell, 3-2, on Oct. 9, the largest fifth-set deficit overcome by the team since Nov. 11, 2006 at Radford.
The Lady Flames showed the ability to come back this season, including an 11-point, set-ending run at Presbyterian during which Susan Babcock served the final 10 points.
The team avenged an earlier setback by downing High Point, 3-1, on Nov. 6 in front of a season-high 1,062 fans on Senior Night. The Lady Flames closed out the regular season with a win for the 19th season in a row, downing Gardner-Webb, 3-1, behind a season-high 71 kills in the regular-season finale.
Serving as the No. 3 seed in the Big South Volleyball Championship for the second year in a row, the Lady Flames built a 2-0 lead over Radford in the first round. The Highlanders then rallied for a 3-2 win over Liberty. Gabrielle Vess led Liberty with 18 kills, while Caroline Douglas followed with 17 kills, Vess, Douglas and Willey all recorded double-doubles.
Liberty posted the only three 100-dig contests in Big South play this season. During each 100-dig match, five Lady Flames reached double-figures in digs. The team set a new program 25-point rally-scoring record with 114 digs on Nov. 7 versus Campbell.
On Nov. 17, redshirt seniors Caroline Douglas and Jade Vorster were named to the Big South All-Conference first team, while sophomore Anna Willey received all-conference honorable mention and Margaret Latchford was voted to the All-Freshman team.
Douglas is the second player in program history to be named first team all-conference three times, joining Anthonia Akpama (four times, 1996-99). Vorster has been voted all-conference all four years of her career (twice All-Big West at Hawai'i, twice All-Big South at Liberty).
Douglas finished up her career ranked eighth in program history with 1,360 career kills. The first player in Big South history to be named Big South Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year in the same season in 2012, Douglas placed second in the Big South in kills per set both overall (3.36) and in conference play (3.67) this year. She registered 17 double-digit kill matches and three 20-kill contests in 2015. Douglas scored a season-high 23 kills at Gardner-Webb, Nov. 14.
Vorster totaled 462 career blocks, including 221 at Hawai'i, and 241 at Liberty. She was ranked 15th among all active NCAA Division I volleyball players in career blocks at the end of the season. She finished the season ranked fourth in the Big South with a Liberty program-rally-scoring-record .358 hitting percentage. She also averaged 0.99 blocks per set, good for fifth in the conference. She graduates with 909 career kills and a .344 career hitting percentage.
Willey stepped up during her first year as Liberty's starting setter, leading the Big South with 11.29 assists per set during conference play. She finished the season ranked third in the Big South with 10.24 assists per set overall. Willey posted a team-high 12 double-doubles, while also adding 12 40-assist matches, seven 50-assist contests and one 60-assist match. Her 63 assists at Gardner-Webb were the most by a Big South setter in 2015.
Latchford led Liberty's back row as a freshman. She finished the season ranked fifth in the Big South with 4.67 digs per set overall and third with 5.12 digs per set in conference play. Her 502 digs were the most by a freshman in program history. She totaled 11 20-dig matches and three 30 dig contests. On Oct. 2 at Campbell, she collected a program rally-scoring-record 38 digs, the most digs by a Big South player this season.
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