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Clayton's Big South Freshman of the Year Award Highlights Liberty's Honors

November 17, 2016  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Clockwise from top left: Leah Clayton, Anna Gragg, Anna Willey and Sirena Vorster were all named to the Big South All-Conference team.

Clockwise from top left: Leah Clayton, Anna Gragg, Anna Willey and Sirena Vorster were all named to the Big South All-Conference team.

Liberty freshman outside hitter Leah Clayton was named Big South Volleyball Freshman of the Year, highlighting eight postseason honors received by the Lady Flames, Thursday.

In addition, Clayton was voted to the Big South All-Conference first team, while junior setter Anna Willey earned inclusion on the second team. Junior middle blocker Sirena Vorster and freshman middle blocker Anna Gragg were both listed among honorable mention all-conference awardees. Clayton and Gragg both earned All-Freshman team accolades, while Willey was named to the All-Academic team.

The Lady Flames have placed at least three players on the all-conference team each of the last 10 seasons. Liberty has now had a setter and a middle blocker on the Big South All-Conference team each of the last 11 years, while this is the 10th straight year that a Liberty outside hitter has made the squad.

Clayton is the seventh Big South Freshman of the Year in program history, and first since Caroline Douglas in 2012. The Danville, Va., native is also the fourth Lady Flame all-time to be named to the Big South All-Conference first team as a freshman.

This is the first time in program history that two Liberty freshman have been voted to the Big South All-Conference volleyball team.

Radford junior outside hitter Maddie Palmer was named Big South Player of the Year, while Highlanders Head Coach Marci Jenkins received her fourth career Big South Coach of the Year award. Charleston Southern junior middle blocker Kylie Klein was voted Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

Clayton has had a dominant freshman season, ranking second in the Big South in kills per set both overall (4.00) and in conference play (4.30). She was a three-time Big South Freshman of the Week, and was also named Big South Player of the Week on Oct. 3. Her 262 kills in conference play are the most by a Lady Flame since 2001, when Rachel Harnack scored 263 kills in Big South play. Clayton has posted six 20-kill matches, all against conference opponents, including 25 kills against both Radford and Charleston Southern.

Willey, a native of Davenport, Iowa, earns her second career all-conference award, as she was received honorable mention in 2015. She finished the regular season ranked second in the conference in assists per set both overall (9.62) and in conference play (9.92). Willey recorded four 50-assist matches in a row, capping an eight-match winning streak in conference play. She is also Liberty's team leader with 11 double-doubles. For her career, Willey ranks eighth in program history with 2,201 career assists.

In addition to her on-court success, Willey is a junior digital media performance major, currently carrying a 3.93 GPA. She receives her first career All-Academic team honor.

Vorster, hailing from Wellington, Fla., was previously a member of the 2014 Big South All-Freshman team. She joins her older sister, Jade (2014-15), as the first pair of sisters in program history to both be named all-conference. Sirena currently ranks second in the Big South with 1.08 blocks per set overall. During conference play, she ranked third in the league while averaging 0.40 aces per set. On Oct. 22 at Gardner-Webb, she became the first Lady Flame in rally-scoring history with 12 kills, six aces and six blocks in the same match.

A native of Missoula, Mont., Gragg has been one of the top middle blockers in the Big South this season. A two-time Big South Freshman of the Week honoree, she is currently ranked third in the Big South in hitting percentage overall (.314) and fourth in conference matches (.319). Additionally, she ranks fifth with 1.03 blocks per set. Gragg has posted seven 10-kill matches, including a career-high 15 kills in the regular-season finale against Charleston Southern. She has also registered five or more blocks on eight occasions.

No. 2 seed Liberty (16-12, 11-5 Big South) has received a first-round bye in the 2016 Big South Volleyball Championship, held this weekend at the Vines Center. The Lady Flames will face the winner of Friday's match between No. 3 seed High Point and sixth-seeded UNC Asheville, in a semifinal on Saturday at 7 p.m.

2016 Big South Conference Volleyball Award Winners
First Team All-Conference

Maddie Palmer – OH, Jr., Radford
Jenny Tait – MB, Sr., Campbell
Haley Barnes – OH, Jr., High Point
Leah Clayton – OH, Fr., Liberty
Haley Kleespies – S, So., Radford
Madison Martin – LIB, So., Charleston Southern
Molly Livingston – MB, So., High Point

Second Team All-Conference
Brianna Gray – MB, Sr., Winthrop
Loni Kreun – OH, Sr., Campbell
Madison Vaughn – MB, Sr., UNC Asheville
Emma Weakland – OH, Sr., Winthrop
Anna Willey – S, Jr., Liberty
Jordan Hefner – MB, So., High Point
Kayla Schanback – LIB, Jr., Campbell
Amaya Rousseau – MB, So., Radford

Honorable Mention
Sirena Vorster – MB, Jr., Liberty
Anna Gragg – MB, Fr., Liberty

Cara Guthrie – OH, So., UNC Asheville
Addison Kadderli – OH, So., Charleston Southern
Savannah Angel, RS, Sr., High Point

All-Freshman Team
Leah Clayton, OH, Liberty

Allena Heath, OH, Campbell
Anna Gragg, MB, Liberty
Sydney Tekstra, OH, Radford
Brooke Monssen, OH, Charleston Southern
Rachel Smith, S, Charleston Southern
Mallory McKnight, MB, Radford

All-Academic Team
Madison Linxwiler – MB, So., Campbell
Kylie Klein – MB, Jr., Charleston Southern
Taylor Lillard – OH, Sr., Gardner-Webb
Haley Barnes – OH, Jr., High Point
Anna Willey – S, Jr., Liberty
Sierra Davis – OH, So., Presbyterian
Kelby Jackson – LIB, Sr., Radford
Madison Vaughn – MB, Sr., UNC Asheville
Carlie Skelton – DS, So., Winthrop

Player of the Year
Maddie Palmer – OH, Jr., Radford

Freshman of the Year
Leah Clayton – OH, Liberty

Coach of the Year
Marci Jenkins - Radford

Scholar Athlete of the Year
Kylie Klein – MB, Jr., Charleston Southern