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Lady Flames Set to Host Liberty Invitational at Vines Center

August 31, 2016  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Lady Flames Set to Host Liberty Invitational at Vines Center

Complete Notes

Liberty hosts a home invitational for the third year in a row, as the Liberty Invitational will take place, Friday and Saturday at the Vines Center. The Lady Flames opened the 2015 season with a perfect 3-0 record at the Liberty Invitational. This year, Liberty (0-3) will face USC Upstate (0-4) on Friday at 7 p.m., before facing Hampton (0-2) and ETSU (3-0) on Saturday.

Liberty is 0-1 all-time against USC Upstate, 9-0 versus Hampton and 2-5 against ETSU.

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 LFSN, with Ray Jones serving as play-by-play announcer and Erin Hagen providing analysis.

Tournament Schedule
Friday, Sept. 2

Match 1: Hampton vs. ETSU - 4:30 p.m. Live Stats 
Match 2: Liberty vs. USC Upstate - 7 p.m. Live Stats Live Video

Saturday, Sept. 3
Match 3: ETSU vs. USC Upstate - 10 a.m. Live Stats
Match 4: Liberty vs. Hampton - 12:30 p.m. Live Stats Live Video
Match 5: USC Upstate vs. Hampton - 4:30 p.m. Live Stats
Match 6: Liberty vs. ETSU - 7 p.m. Live Stats Live Video

Starting Rotation
1.   Liberty posted an 0-3 record against a challenging field at the Kennesaw State Invitational. The Lady Flames' opponents last weekend went a combined 69-24 in 2015. Liberty held each of its opponents under its 2015 season hitting percentage.

2.   Last Friday against Pitt, Liberty started three freshmen - Leah Clayton, Casey Goodwin and Kainah Williams. It marked the first time since Sept. 1, 2000 against Texas Tech that three or more true freshmen started the season opener.

3.   Despite the tough competition, Liberty leads the Big South with 2.50 blocks per set, including 12 against Missouri on Saturday. Sirena Vorster paces the conference with 1.70 blocks per set, after posting a career-high nine blocks versus Missouri.

4.   Shane Pinder, in his 13th season as Liberty's head coach, became the program's all-time leader in career victories Oct. 3, 2014 at Gardner-Webb. At 222-166, Pinder needs two more wins to become second all-time in Big South career coaching victories.

5.   The Lady Flames were predicted to finish second in the Big South preseason coaches' poll. Additionally, junior setter Anna Willey and sophomore libero Margaret Latchford were voted to the Preseason All-Big South team.

6.         This is the 16th home invitational that Liberty will host. The Lady Flames have gone 33-15 in regular-season home tournament play.

Fresh Faces
The Lady Flames have seven freshmen this season. Five newcomers have already started at least one match, including as many as four at a time.

Last Friday against Pitt, Leah Clayton, Casey Goodwin and Kainah Williams all started. It marked the first time since Sept. 1, 2000 that three or more Liberty true freshmen started the season opener. In 2000, Erin McKeown, Theresa Passamani, Tatiana Tkachuk and Simone Turner all drew the start in a 3-1 setback to Texas Tech in Columbia, S.C.

The last time three freshmen started the first match of the season was Aug. 27, 2010, when Jade Craycraft, Lillie Happel and redshirt freshman Kendle Rollins all started against Cleveland State.

Big D
After the first week of play, Liberty leads the Big South with 2.50 blocks per set. The Lady Flames posted a season-high 12 blocks against Missouri.

Junior Sirena Vorster averages 1.70 blocks per set to pace the Big South and rank in the top 25 nationally after factoring in 17 out of 25 team blocks so far. Her career-high nine blocks against Missouri were the most by a Lady Flame since her older sister, Jade Vorster, posted nine blocks on Oct. 10, 2014 against Campbell.

Double-Double the Fun
On Saturday against Kennesaw State, Leah Clayton (15 kills, 17 digs), Hannah Morris (47 assists, 12 digs) and Gabrielle Vess (16 kills, 13 digs) all posted double-doubles. Freshman Casey Goodwin added 10 kills.

Clayton and Morris were the first Liberty freshman teammates since Jade Craycraft and Lillie Happel Nov. 19, 2010 at Winthrop to record double-doubles in the same match. That was also the last time two Liberty freshmen posted 10+ kills in the same contest.

Dishing it Out
Freshman Hannah Morris is ranked second in the Big South with 9.25 assists per set so far this season. She recorded 47 assists, four aces, 12 digs and four blocks against Kennesaw State on Saturday.

Junior Anna Willey returns after dishing out 1,096 assists last season, becoming the seventh Lady Flame in rally-scoring history with a 1,000-assist season.

Willey led the conference with 11.29 assists per set during Big South matches. She also posted a team-high 12 double-doubles, while adding 12 40-assist matches, seven 50-assist contests and one 60-assist match.

Dig In
Senior Michelle Melendez tied her career high with 22 digs on Saturday at Kennesaw State. Leah Clayton (17), Gabrielle Vess (13) and Hannah Morris (12) also entered double-digits for the Lady Flames, who collected 74 digs as a team.

Clayton and Melendez have posted two 10-dig matches each this season, while 2015 VaSID All-State second team libero Margaret Latchford collected a season-high 10 digs on Saturday against Missouri.

15's
On Saturday against Kennesaw State, Gabrielle Vess scored 16 kills, while Leah Clayton added a career-high 15 kills. It marked the first time since Nov. 19, 2015 against Radford that two Lady Flames recorded 15 kills in the same match. That night, Vess sent down 18 kills and three-time all-conference selection Caroline Douglas scored the final 17 kills of her career.

Top of the List
Liberty Head Coach Shane Pinder is in his 13th season and holds a 222-166 overall career record.

On Oct. 3, 2014 at Gardner-Webb, he passed Chris Phillips (1992-97, 99-03) for first place on Liberty's all-time volleyball wins list. With a 3-1 win at UNC Asheville on Oct. 4, he became the fourth volleyball coach in Big South history with 200 or more career wins.

Pinder needs two more wins to pass former Coastal Carolina Head Coach Kristen Bauer (1999-2011) for second all-time in career wins among Big South volleyball coaches.

Liberty vs. USC Upstate (USC Upstate leads, 1-0)
Previous Meeting:
USC Upstate 3, Liberty 0 (Sept. 6, 2014 - Lynchburg, Va.)

After posting a program Division I-record 15 wins last season, USC Upstate (0-4) started off the 2016 season with three losses at a tournament hosted by ETSU. The Spartans then fell, 3-2, at Gardner-Webb on Tuesday.

Madison Haake, a 2015 Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team member, is one of five returning starters. Emily Koelling leads the Spartans with 2.06 kills per set, followed by Haake, at 2.00 kills per set.

Liberty vs. Hampton (Liberty leads, 9-0)
Last Meeting: Liberty 3, Hampton 0 (Aug. 29, 2015 - Lynchburg, Va.)

Hampton (0-2) earned back-to-back MEAC titles in 2013 and 2014, before struggling through a three-win campaign last season. Under new head coach Brandon Duvall, the Lady Pirates dropped a pair of matches at the Temple Invitational to start 2016.

Hampton returns Reeana Richardson, who was named to the 2015 All-MEAC third team as a freshman. Richardson leads the Pirates with 3.00 kills per set, while Lena Washington averages 2.17 kills per set. Hampton posts 3.00 blocks per set as a team.

Liberty vs. ETSU (ETSU Leads, 5-2)
Last Meeting: ETSU 3, Liberty 0 (Sept. 6, 2013 - Lexington, Ky.)
Last Liberty Win: Liberty 3, ETSU 0 (Sept. 4, 2009 - Lynchburg, Va.)

ETSU posted three straight 3-0 sweeps over Austin Peay, Troy and USC Upstate, to win its home tournament last weekend. The Buccaneers were picked to place fifth in the SoCon, after registering a 19-12 record last season.

ETSU's Rylee Milhorn, a 2015 All-SoCon first team selection, was named SoCon Offensive Player of the Week on Monday after leading the team with 3.56 kills per set. Fellow 2015 first team all-conference choice Briana Allmon averages 2.89 kills per set

Liberty Invitational History
This weekend's tournament will be the 16th time Liberty has hosted an in-season invitational. The Lady Flames are 33-15 (.688) all-time at home invitationals.

The Lady Flames posted a perfect 3-0 record over UNCG, Hampton and Howard to win the 2015 Liberty Invitational. Jade Vorster was named tournament MVP, and was joined on the all-tournament team by Caroline Douglas and Anna Willey.

Pinder's first collegiate coaching win came Sept. 17, 2004, in his first home match as head coach at Liberty, a 3-0 win over Davidson, the first match of the Liberty Invitational.

Defending the Home Court
Liberty has been dominant at the Vines Center, going 19-6 in its last 25 home matches. Beginning in 2011, the Lady Flames are 41-9 (.820) in their last 50 home contests.

Since 2007, Liberty is 80-16 (.833) at the Vines Center.

The Lady Flames are 10-2 in home openers under Coach Pinder, and 20-7 in the initial home match of the season since 1989. Liberty has won its home opener seven straight years.