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Lady Flames Prepare to Defend Big South Title

November 20, 2008  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The Lady Flames are attempting to win back-to-back Big South Championships for the first time in program history.

The Lady Flames are attempting to win back-to-back Big South Championships for the first time in program history.

View full Big South Championship notes (PDF format)

View Big South Championship bracket (PDF format)

View UNC Asheville's informational webpage on the tournament

View live streaming video (Big South EDGE)

View live stats of all tournament matches

The Match
The No. 1 seed Liberty Lady Flames (22-8, 13-3 Big South) will open defense of their Big South championship Friday at 5 p.m., when they face No. 8 seed Gardner-Webb (5-26, 3-13 Big South). The entire 2008 Big South Volleyball Championship will be played at the Justice Center, in Asheville, N.C.

What's at Stake
The winner of Friday's match will advance to the semifinal round, where they will meet either No. 4 seed UNC Asheville or No. 5 seed Winthrop, Saturday at 7 p.m. The championship match is slated for Sunday at 2 p.m. The tournament champion will advance to the 2008 NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship, which will begin the weekend of Dec. 4-7.

How to Follow the Lady Flames
All seven matches of the 2008 Big South Volleyball Championship will be video streamed LIVE via the Big South EDGE. Also, live stats will be provided for every match. Visit LibertyFlames.com for links and more information.

Looking Back at Last Year
Liberty hosted the 2007 Big South Volleyball Championship, and the No. 1-seeded Lady Flames were able to win their fourth conference title. Liberty received a first-round bye. The Lady Flames then swept Coastal Carolina, 3-0, in the semifinal round on Nov. 16. The following afternoon, Liberty secured its first Big South crown since 2001 with a 3-0 sweep of defending champion Winthrop. Kallie Corbin was tabbed Tournament MVP.

Scouting Gardner-Webb
Gardner-Webb, in its first season as a Big South Conference member, is 5-26 overall and 3-13 in conference play. The Bulldogs enter the Big South Championship on an eight-match losing streak, and Gardner-Webb has dropped 15 of its last 16 decisions.

Middle blocker Laura Wilcox is a favoite for Big South Freshman of the Year, as she captured the conference's Freshman of the Week award six times. She leads the Bulldogs and ranks seventh in the conference with 315 kills. Senior libero Katie Matykowski, who sits sixth in the Big South with 438 digs, was tabbed Big South Libero of the Week on Sept. 29.

The Coaching Matchup
Liberty Head Coach Shane Pinder is 81-76 in his fifth season with the Lady Flames. The 2007 Big South and VaSID Coach of the Year has guided Liberty to its first back-to-back Big South regular-season titles since 1997 and 1998. The Lady Flames are 49-17 in the past two seasons under his direction, including 2-0 versus Gardner-Webb.

Chris Phillips is 42-86 in her fourth season as Gardner-Webb's head coach and 386-350 in 19 total seasons as a collegiate head coach. She coached Liberty for a total of 11 seasons (1992-97, 1999-2003), leading the Lady Flames to Big South titles in 1997, 1999 and 2001. She is 0-2 coaching against Liberty.

Liberty-Gardner-Webb Series Notes
Liberty is 3-0 all-time versus Gardner-Webb, but two of the three meetings have come this season. The Lady Flames handed the Bulldogs their first Big South loss, 3-0 on Oct. 3 at the Vines Center. Liberty then rallied from a 2-1 deficit to pull out a 3-2 victory at Gardner-Webb on Nov. 1.

The teams' only other meeting came on Sept. 9, 2000. Liberty swept the Bulldogs, 3-0, on the second day of the Liberty-Ramada Inn Invitational at the Vines Center.

Liberty in the Big South Championship (By Seed)
#1 Seed: (4 times, 6-2 record, 1997 & 2007 champion, 1998 runner-up)

#2 Seed: (1 time, 3-0 record, 1999 champion)

#3 Seed: (3 times, 5-2 record, 2001 champion, 1992 runner-up)

#4 Seed: (2 times, 3-2 record, 2002 runner-up)

#5 Seed: (3 times, 3-3 record)

#6 Seed: (2 times, 0-2 record)

#7 Seed: Liberty has never been the #7 seed.

#8 Seed: (2 times, 2-2 record)

An Odd Trend
Interestingly, all four of Liberty's Big South championships have come in odd-numbered years (1997, 1999, 2001 & 2007). The Lady Flames are in search of their first Big South title in an even-numbered year and their first back-to-back tournament titles.

Back-to-Back
Liberty was part of a three-way tie for the Big South regular-season title, as the Lady Flames finished with the same 13-3 record as Coastal Carolina and High Point. The Lady Flames have captured consecutive conference regular-season crowns for the first time since the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

Lucky 13
The Lady Flames' 13 Big South wins equaled the most in program history. The 2003 Liberty squad finished 13-1 in Big South Conference play.

We're No. 1
The No. 1 seed has only won the Big South Championship title eight times in the last 21 seasons. However, the top-seeded team has won the last four championships, including Liberty's title a season ago. The Lady Flames have won the championship two out of four times they have been seeded No. 1, in 1997 and 2007.

Casting a Webb over the Big South
Senior Ashley Webber has stepped up her play during her final trip through the Big South Conference schedule. The middle blocker hit .350 or higher in 14 of 16 conference matches, tallying a .497 attack percentage in Big South play. She notched a school-record .875 attack percentage at Winthrop on Oct. 17.

Sweeping Up the Competition
Since the start of the 2007 season, Liberty is 26-4 versus Big South opponents, and the Lady Flames have recorded 22 3-0 sweeps of conference foes. Meanwhile, Liberty has not been swept by a Big South team since Oct. 21, 2006, at Charleston Southern.