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A Long Road to Liberty

September 24, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Redshirt senior right-side hitter Brittany Pacella and the Lady Flames open Big South Conference play this weekend, with home matches against Winthrop and Coastal Carolina.

Redshirt senior right-side hitter Brittany Pacella and the Lady Flames open Big South Conference play this weekend, with home matches against Winthrop and Coastal Carolina.

This feature article first appeared in the Sept. 12 issue of Flames Illustrated, the official program for the North Carolina Central at Liberty football game.

Many people have a life Bible verse, one which has been important and meaningful to them in crucial situations. For Liberty senior right-side hitter Brittany Pacella, Jeremiah 29:11 certainly fits the bill. The famous passage, which states that God's plans give us hope and a future, helped guide her from a devastating knee injury to her current role as captain of the two-time defending Big South Champion Lady Flames volleyball team.

Pacella grew up in an athletic household, as her father, David, was an All-ACC football player at Maryland and also played a couple seasons in the NFL. After beginning her athletic career as a swimmer, Pacella started playing volleyball in middle school and quickly excelled in her new sport.

As a senior at Holy Name High School, Pacella led her volleyball team to a state runner-up finish and was a first-team all-state honoree in Pennsylvania. Her performance caught the attention of numerous college coaches, and she earned a volleyball scholarship at N.C. State.

Before Pacella got to Raleigh, though, she suffered an ACL injury, which completely changed things for her.

"Up until that point in my life, volleyball was everything," the Reading, Pa., native recalled. "I had a broken heart, because volleyball was my number one priority. Then, my dad told me something at exactly the right time I needed to hear it. He said, ‘Sometimes things that seem really bad are actually good.'

"After he told me that," Pacella continued, "I realized that I needed to put God first in my life, and I was able to find out who I was as a person."

Pacella spent her first year of college at N.C. State, rehabbing after her knee injury. However, she did not feel comfortable in her new environment. One night, she flipped her Bible open to Jeremiah 29:11 and read the verse, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." The verse caused Pacella to recall the advice her dad had given her after her knee injury.

Pacella had played club volleyball for the Philadelphia Volleyball Academy during her high school years, and one of her teammates, Alysson Sanders, had signed a volleyball scholarship with Liberty. Pacella also knew that Liberty was a Christian university and decided to visit campus.

Early on in her visit, Liberty Head Volleyball Coach Shane Pinder shared the program verse with Pacella. What was the program verse he opened his Bible to? Pinder read Jeremiah 29:11 and spoke to Pacella of its importance to the Lady Flames' program.

"I knew right then and there that I was meant to be at Liberty," Pacella stated.

Pacella then transferred from N.C. State to Liberty, enrolling in classes and joining the volleyball team in the fall of 2006. However, it took two more years for Pacella to make it back to full strength after her knee injury.

"I had to work really hard to come back," noted Pacella. "I never realized it would take that long. There was no way I was going to quit though. Like my dad, I'm very competitive and I love the game of volleyball."

Pacella's hard work and commitment were rewarded in the 2008 season opener, at VCU's Third Degree Sportswear Invitational. She earned a spot in the Lady Flames' starting lineup, contributing six kills and six digs as Liberty swept N.C. State, ironically.

"That match really confirmed my decision for me," said Pacella. "Coach Pinder is doing things right with our program."

Pacella ended up making 25 starts last year, finishing her redshirt junior campaign with 145 kills. Her efforts helped the Lady Flames repeat as Big South champions for the first time in program history. Pacella did not get a chance to play in either the Big South Championship title match or the NCAA Tournament contest at Nebraska, though. That's one of her goals during her final go-around wearing the Liberty No. 25 volleyball jersey.

"I'm ready to go," Pacella remarked. "I'm excited for this season. I haven't been on the court yet for the Big South Championship or NCAA Tournament, so I'm looking forward to playing all year and being a consistent performer.

"Our team has so much talent," she continued. "We really want to win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament this year and keep rolling from there."

Prior to the season, Pacella was voted by her teammates as a team captain, and she takes the role seriously.

"I was honored to be voted a captain by my teammates," Pacella stated. "That says a lot. In this role, I need to be a good communicator and a big sister to the younger players on our team. I also need to be consistent every day and set a good example."

Pinder believes Pacella is the perfect player for the job. "Brittany has bought into our philosophy 100 percent. She always leads the team in singing, ‘Fan the Flames' on road trips and has built a lot of pride and tradition in our program. Her intensity and commitment are among her greatest attributes."

Pacella opened her senior season on a high note, contributing eight kills and 10 digs to the Lady Flames' 3-0 sweep of UNC Greensboro on Aug. 28. No matter how the year ends for the Liberty volleyball team, though, it's already apparent that her high school knee injury has turned into a positive thing for both Pacella individually and the Lady Flames volleyball program as a whole.

Paul Carmany is an assistant athletics communications director who covers volleyball, women's basketball and track & field.