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Liberty to Host VCU in Midweek Test, Tuesday

September 11, 2017  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty to Host VCU in Midweek Test, Tuesday

Complete Match Notes

Liberty (2-7) returns to Lynchburg for a non-conference match on Tuesday at 6 p.m., as the VCU Rams (9-2) visit the Vines Center. The Lady Flames are in search of their first home win of the season, while VCU has posted a six-match winning streak.

VCU leads the all-time series over Liberty, 16-14. The home team has won each of the last two years, with the Lady Flames sweeping the Rams, 3-0, Oct. 6, 2015 in the Vines Center. VCU edged Liberty, 3-1, Sept. 17, 2016 in Richmond, Va.

How to Follow the Lady Flames
Fans can follow Tuesday's match through both live stats and live video. Live stats will be provided by Liberty Athletics Communications. The match will also be broadcast by LFSN, airing on the Big South Network, and WFFP-TV, with Erin Hagen calling play-by-play and Karyl Wiese providing analysis.

Starting Rotation
1. Liberty went 1-2 at the Amy Svoboda Memorial Classic in Colorado Springs last weekend, averaging 2.92 blocks per set while holding opponents to a .154 hitting percentage. For the season, the Lady Flames lead the Big South with 2.38 blocks per set.

2. Casey Goodwin and Anna Gragg were both named to the Amy Svoboda Memorial Classic all-tournament team. It marked Goodwin's second all-tournament team honor this year and third of her career, and second career all-tournament team honor for Gragg.

3. Last Friday against Southern Utah, three Lady Flames (Anna Willey, Gabrielle Vess and Victoria Baptista) all recorded double-doubles. It was the first time since Aug. 27, 2016 against Kennesaw State that three Lady Flames had double-doubles in the same match.

4. Margaret Latchford collected a season-high 30 digs on Sept. 2 against Elon. She needs just four digs to become the 21st player in program history with 1,000 career digs. The last Liberty player to reach 1,000 career digs was Lillie Happel, who did so Nov. 22, 2013.

5. Shane Pinder, in his 14th season as Liberty's head coach, is the program's all-time winningest coach, at 240-183.

6. The Lady Flames were predicted to finish third in the Big South preseason coaches' poll. Additionally, senior setter Anna Willey and sophomore middle blocker Anna Gragg were voted to the Preseason All-Big South team.

7. Gabrielle Vess leads Liberty in kills this season. Her 17 kills last Friday against Southern Utah were the most by a Lady Flame this season, topping Vess' 16 kills from the previous match, Sept. 2 against Elon.

Liberty vs. VCU (VCU leads series, 16-14)
Current Series Streak: VCU W1
Last Meeting: VCU 3, Liberty 1 (Sept. 17, 2016 - Richmond, Va.)
Last Liberty Win: Liberty 3, VCU 0 (Oct. 6, 2015 - Lynchburg, Va.)

VCU has raced out to a 9-2 record, riding a current six-match winning streak that includes a 3-2 win at High Point and a 3-0 sweep at Virginia last week. The Rams have been stout defensively this year, ranking second in all of NCAA Division I in blocks per set (3.45) and fifth nationally in opponents' hitting percentage (.119).

Individually, Tori Baldwin ranks second in the A-10 with 1.55 blocks per set and a .422 hitting percentage. Jasmin Sneed paces the conference with 1.64 blocks per set. Rebekah Strange ranks fourth in the A-10 with 4.59 digs per set. 2016 A-10 All-Conference second team selection Julia Adler is seventh in the conference in blocks per set (1.03). Three current Rams have been named to the A-10 All-Freshman team during their careers.

Series History
The volleyball series between Liberty and VCU has gone back and forth. Liberty led the series, 13-7, through the first 20 meetings. The Rams have since won nine out of the last 10 matchups, including eight in a row from 2005-13. The Lady Flames downed VCU Oct. 26, 2004, in Shane Pinder's first season at the helm. Liberty's next win over the Rams came nearly 11 years later, Oct. 6, 2015 in Lynchburg.

Last Meeting
VCU defeated Liberty, 3-1, on Sept. 17, 2016 in Richmond, Va. The Rams held a slight, .119-.113 edge in hitting percentage. Liberty posted a season-high 17 blocks in the match, led by seven blocks each from Anna Gragg and Sirena Vorster. VCU's Vicky Giommarini scored a match-high 17 kills.

1,502's a Crowd
Hosting a Big Ten opponent for the first time in Vines Center history, Liberty drew 1,502 fans for the home opener against Maryland on Sept 1. It was the fourth-largest volleyball crowd ever in the Vines Center, and largest to see a home opener. It was the biggest crowd to see a volleyball match at a Big South facility this season.

Midweek Note
Tuesday's match will be the team's first out of six weeknight contests this season. The last time that Liberty played six midweek regular-season matches was 2010. That year, Liberty went 5-1 in midweek matches.

Liberty's match against VCU will be the team's first midweek non-conference match since the Lady Flames hosted the Rams on Oct. 6, 2015.

Big Blocks     
The match between Liberty and VCU will pit the top blocking team in the Big South (Liberty - 2.38 blocks per set) and Atlantic 10 (VCU - 3.45 blocks per set).

Liberty has posted 14 or more blocks three times this season, while VCU has recorded 14+ blocks five times, including a season-high 20 blocks against Howard on Saturday.

Chasing 1,000
Junior Margaret Latchford needs four more digs to become the 21st player in program history to record her 1,000th career dig.  The last Liberty player to reach 1,000 career digs was Lillie Happel, who collected her 1,000th dig in her final collegiate match, the 2013 Big South semifinal against Radford.

A year after leading the Big South with 2.45 blocks per set, Liberty has picked up its net defense where it left off, pacing the conference again, with 2.38 blocks per set.

During both matches last Friday, against Southern Utah and Air Force, Liberty posted 14 blocks. Friday's match versus Southern Utah saw Sirena Vorster tie her career high with nine blocks while Gabrielle Vess posted a career-high six blocks.

Against Air Force, Kainah Williams recorded a career-high eight blocks, including three solo blocks. The last Liberty player to post three solo blocks in a match was Jade Vorster against Presbyterian, Oct. 24, 2014.

Anna Gragg ranks fifth in the Big South with 1.00 blocks per set, while Casey Goodwin (0.88 bps) is eighth and Vorster (0.81), 10th.

On the Attack
Gabrielle Vess leads Liberty with 2.82 kills per set, good for seventh in the Big South. She had back-to-back double-digit kill matches, with 16 kills on Sept. 2 against Elon and 17 kills versus Southern Utah, Sept. 8. With 33 kills combined in back-to-back matches, that ties her highest kill total in any consecutive matches in her career.

Anna Gragg tied her career high with 15 kills on Aug. 26 against Hofstra, the most kills by a Liberty middle blocker this season.

Last Friday against Southern Utah, Gabrielle Vess (17 kills, 12 digs), Victoria Baptista (12 kills, 16 digs) and Anna Willey (44 assists, 10 digs) all recorded double-doubles. It marked the first time since Aug. 27, 2016 at Kennesaw State (Vess, Leah Clayton, Hannah Morris) that three Lady Flames registered double-doubles in the same match.

Amaya Williams, making her first start on Aug. 26 against Virginia, registered a double-double with 36 assists and 10 digs. She is the first Liberty freshman since Lillie Happel (Aug. 27, 2010 vs. Cleveland State) to record a double-double in her first start.

Senior Anna Willey is Liberty's active career leader in double-doubles, with 28, including 12 double-doubles in both 2015 and 2016.

Digging Deep
Liberty averaged 19.60 digs per set during its first three home matches this season. For the year, the Lady Flames are ranked fourth in the Big South with 15.24 digs per set.

Maraget Latchford (3.64 dps) is ranked seventh in the conference in digs, while Victoria Baptista (3.15) ranks 10th.

On Sept. 2 against Elon, Margaret Latchford (30 digs) and Gabrielle Vess (22) became the first Liberty teammates since Caila Stapleton (25) and Gabrielle Shipe (24), Sept. 26, 2014 against Radford, with 20+ digs in the same match.

Baptista, a transfer from Panola College in Texas, became the first player since Karyl Bacon in 2007 to collect 10+ digs in each of her first three matches at Liberty.

Setting the Stage
Senior Anna Willey ranks eighth in program history with 2,427 career assists. She has ranked second in the Big South in assists each of the last two years. Willey dished out a season-high 45 assists on Aug. 26 against Hofstra.

Sophomore Hannah Morris played well when called upon as a freshman last year, registering four 40-assist matches, one 50-assist contest and three double-doubles.

Freshman Amaya Williams dished out 36 assists on Aug. 26 against Virginia, giving Liberty three setters with at least one career 30-assist contest.