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Liberty Volleyball Heads to South Carolina for Matches at Wintrop, CSU

October 18, 2017  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty Volleyball Heads to South Carolina for Matches at Wintrop, CSU

Complete Match Notes

Liberty (7-14, 4-4 Big South) opens the second half of Big South play this weekend, playing at Winthrop (13-9, 4-4) on Friday at 7 p.m. before playing at Charleston Southern (8-14, 3-5), Saturday at 3 p.m. Liberty faced both of these teams last weekend in the Vines Center, falling to Winthrop in five sets on Friday before sweeping CSU the following day.

Liberty is 31-19 all-time in volleyball against Winthrop, having won four out of the last five meetings. The Lady Flames lead CSU, 40-5, in the all-time series.

Starting Rotation
1. Liberty hit .222 as a team in three matches combined last week, highlighted by a season-best .292 during a 3-0 sweep of Charleston Southern on Saturday.

2. Amaya Williams was named Big South Freshman of the Week on Monday, her second Freshman of the Week honor this season. She leads all Big South Freshman setters with 9.03 assists per set in conference matches. Williams has posted two 50-assist matches.

3. Junior libero Margaret Latchford currently ranks 16th in program history with 1,173 career digs, needing six more digs to pass Jessica Nelson (2004-05, 07-08) into 15th.

4. Sophomore Anna Gragg has been dominant in Big South play, ranking second in the conference in hitting percentage (.410), third in blocks per set (0.91) and ninth in kills per set (3.12). She has two 19-kill matches in league play so far.

5. Liberty hosted Winthrop and Charleston Southern last weekend, and will play at Winthrop and Charleston Southern this week. This is the first time in program history that Liberty has faced the same two teams in back-to-back weekends in the regular season.

6. Shane Pinder, in his 14th season as Liberty's head coach, is the program's all-time winningest coach, at 245-190. He is ranked second all-time among all Big South volleyball coaches in both overall wins and conference victories (138). 

7. Liberty currently sits in a tie for fourth in Big South standings with Campbell and Winthrop at 4-4. High Point leads at 9-0, followed in second by Radford at 6-2 and in third by UNC Asheville (5-4), who beat Presbyterian on Tuesday night to start their second half.

Williams Named Big South Freshman of the Week
Amaya Williams was named Big South Freshman of the Week on Monday. It was her second Freshman of the Week award, tying her with High Point's Abby Bottomley and CSU's Kalysia Bates for the most Big South Freshman of the Week honors this season.

She averaged 10.55 assists per set in three matches last week, distributing for an offense that hit .222 as a team. She dished out a match-high-tying 52 assists against Winthrop on Friday, her second 50-assist match this season. She then totaled 40 assists against CSU, the most assists by a Liberty setter in a three-set match this season.

Milestones Reached
Junior Margaret Latchford collected her 1,000th career dig against VCU, Sept. 12. She currently ranks 16th in program history with 1,173 career digs. She needs six digs to pass Jessica Nelson (2004-05, 07-08) for 15th place.

On the Attack
Liberty posted some impressive offensive numbers last week, hitting .222 as a team.

On Friday against Winthrop, Liberty put four players in double-figures in kills, as Anna Gragg tied her career high with 19 kills, Casey Goodwin scored 12 kills and Gabrielle Vess and Sirena Vorster sent down 10 kills each. That is the second time this season, that those four reached double-digits in the same match, as Gragg (19), Goodwin (15), Vorster (14) and Vess all had 13 or more kills against Presbyterian, Sept. 23. That night, Liberty scored a Vines Center 25-point-rally-scoring-record 73 kills.

Liberty then hit a season-best .292 in a 3-0 sweep of CSU on Saturday, Liberty's first straight-sets victory of the season. The Lady Flames were led by Vess (15 kills, .300) Gragg (12 kills, .455) and Goodwin (11 kills).

Double-Doubles
Gabrielle Vess posted back-to-back double-doubles last weekend, tying her for first on the team with Amaya Williams, as both players have six double-doubles on the season.

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.    

Block Party     
During Friday night's match against Winthrop, Liberty posted 12 blocks as a team, its seventh 10-block match of the season. Anna Gragg led the Lady Flames with eight blocks on the evening. The Lady Flames have outblocked such opponents as VCU (2nd nationally in blocks per set), Villanova, Virginia, Hofstra, Air Force, Radford and High Point.

A year after leading the Big South with 2.45 blocks per set, Liberty has picked up its net defense where it left off, ranking second in the conference with 2.18 blocks per set.

Middle of it All
Sophomore middle blocker Anna Gragg has gotten off to a strong start to conference play, hitting .410 while averaging 3.03 kills per set in Big South matches. She scored 19 kills on Sept. 23 against Presbyterian and had 18 kills on Sept. 30 versus UNC Asheville.

Gragg was the first Liberty middle blocker since Erin McKeown in Nov. 2002 with consecutive 18+-kill matches. McKeown went for 18 or more kills in four straight matches.

Sirena Vorster, who along with Gragg was a Big South All-Conference honorable mention middle blocker in 2016, is averaging 1.88 kills per set while hitting .381 in conference play.

In each of its first two conference matches, Liberty had two middle blockers in double-digits in kills. Kainah Williams and Gragg both went for 11 kills on Sept. 19 against High Point. Then, on Sept 23 versus PC, Gragg scored 19 kills and Sirena Vorster, 14.

Team Effort
Sept. 23 against PC was the first time this year that five Lady Flames all recorded 10 or more digs as Margaret Latchford collected 21 digs, Kaitlyn Young had a career-high 17 digs, Amaya Williams recorded 12 digs, Gabrielle Vess had 11 and Victoria Baptista, 10.

Offense and Defense
Casey Goodwin scored 11 kills and added a career-high seven blocks, last Tuesday at Radford, and then contributed 13 kills (.480) and six blocks at Campbell on Friday. She is the first Lady Flame since Loren Thomas, Oct. 28 through Nov. 4, 2011, to post back-to-back matches with 10 or more kills and six or more blocks in each match. Thomas' efforts also came against Radford and Campbell.

Liberty vs. Winthrop (Liberty leads series, 31-19) (Series streak: Winthrop W1)
Winthrop (13-9, 4-4 Big South) enters the second half of its conference schedule in a three-way tie with Liberty, and Campbell for fourth in the Big South standings. Overall, Siani Yamaguchi averages a league-best 9.96 assists per set. Keaupono Fey ranks second in the Big South in hitting percentage (.342) and fourth in blocks per set (0.96). Carlie Skelton is ranked fifth in the league with 4.38 digs per set.

Liberty is 31-19 all-time against Winthrop, winning four straight meetings before Winthrop's 3-2 victory last Friday. Four out of the last six meetings have gone five sets. Also, Liberty and Winthrop have played five-set matches in four out of their last five meetings at Winthrop Coliseum, dating to the 2010 Big South Volleyball Championship semifinal.

Last Friday at the Vines Center, Winthrop rallied from a 2-1 deficit to down Liberty in five sets. Phoebe Wu scored a match-high 26 kills for Winthrop, while Anna Gragg led four Liberty players in double-figures in kills, tying her career high with 19 kills. It was Liberty's third straight home match to go five sets.

Liberty vs. CSU (Liberty leads series, 40-5) (Series streak: Liberty W1)
Charleston Southern (8-14, 3-5) is seventh in league standings after splitting a pair of road matches last weekend. The Buccaneers lead the Big South with 2.27 blocks per set during conference play, while ranking second overall with 16.02 digs per set.

2016 Big South All-Conference first-team libero Madison Martin is ranked third in the league with 4.71 digs per set, while freshman Kalysia Bates leads the Big South at 1.07 blocks per set. Rachel Smith (9.15) is ranked fourth in the conference in assists per set, while Kylie Klein is sixth in hitting percentage at .296.

Liberty is 40-5 all-time against Charleston Southern, including 21-2 under Pinder. The Lady Flames won 16 straight meetings before Charleston Southern's 3-2 win at Liberty to end the 2016 regular season. Four out of Liberty's last five matches at CSU have gone five sets, with Liberty winning each time.

Liberty posted its first 3-0 sweep of 2017 last Saturday against Charleston Southern at the Vines Center. The Lady Flames outhit the Buccaneers, .292-.138, with Liberty's .292 hitting percentage being its highest of the season. Liberty's Gabrielle Vess led all players with 15 kills.    

3-2, 3-2, 3-2     
Liberty posted three straight five-set wins for the first time in program history, over PC (Sept. 23), UNC Asheville (Sept. 30) and Radford (Oct. 3). Then, Liberty fell to Winthrop last Friday. Liberty's current senior class of Gabrielle Vess, Sirena Vorster and Anna Willey, is 12-4 in conference regular-season matches that last five sets.

The Lady Flames have hit outhit Big South opponents a combined .269 (39-15-89) to .109 (22-12-91) in fifth sets this season.

Halfway Home (Midterm)
Entering conference play, Liberty was hitting .159 as a team. In Big South matches, Liberty is hitting .213. Anna Gragg ranks second in conference-only stats in hitting percentage (.410) and is third in blocks per set (0.91). Casey Goodwin ranks second with 1.00 blocks per set, while Sirena Vorster is third with a .384 Big South hitting percentage.