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Volleyball Travels to Florida for UCF Classic

August 30, 2012  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The Liberty volleyball team will compete in Florida for the first time since 1999.

The Liberty volleyball team will compete in Florida for the first time since 1999.

Complete Match Notes

Tournament Central Page

Liberty volleyball opens a span of nine straight matches away from the Vines Center, competing in the Holiday Inn Select/UCF Classic this weekend. The Lady Flames will take on Jacksonville (0-3) and Columbia (0-0) on Friday before facing the host Knights (0-3) on Saturday at 7 p.m.

The Lady Flames have won three matches in a row, including a 3-1 victory over William & Mary in the home opener on Tuesday night. Liberty totaled 14.5 blocks against William & Mary, led by nine from Big South Preseason Player of the Year Loren Thomas.

The Field
Liberty and UCF both recorded 20 wins last season, while Columbia totaled a 15-10 record and Jacksonville went 14-17 in 2011. UCF, Columbia and Jacksonville are each in search of their first wins of 2012.

Jacksonville and UCF both hold a 1-0 record all-time against the Lady Flames, while Liberty meets Columbia of the Ivy League for the first time this weekend.

How to Follow the Lady Flames
Live stats will be available for all matches at this weekend's invitational, through links on Live stats are courtesy of UCF Athletics Communications. Fans can view Liberty's match against host UCF on Saturday through live video streaming, for a charge, through

Quick Hits
- Liberty competes in Fla. for first time since Dec. 2, 1999 (NCAA First Round at Florida).

- Lady Flames to play in Orlando, hometown of three players (Gebben, Shipe, Thomas).

- Liberty's next nine matches are on the road (next home match: Sept. 21 vs. Radford).

- On Tuesday, Liberty won its home opener for fourth year in a row, over William & Mary.

- Liberty totaled a season-high 14.5 team blocks on Tuesday against William & Mary.

- Redshirt freshman Caroline Douglas was named Big South Freshman of Week, Monday.

- Ninth-year head coach Shane Pinder recorded 150th career win, Aug. 24 at N.C. Central.

- The Lady Flames posted their fifth 20-win season in a row in 2011.

- The team was voted to repeat as Big South champions in the preseason coaches poll.

- Loren Thomas was named the 2012 Big South Preseason Player of the Year.

- Liberty is 0-1 all time against Jacksonville and UCF, 0-0 versus Columbia.

Back to the Sunshine State
Liberty volleyball returns to Florida for the first time since Dec. 2, 1999, when the Lady Flames competed against No. 4 Florida Gators in the NCAA Tournament First Round.

This weekend will see three Lady Flames return to their hometown. Senior Loren Thomas, along with sophomores Gabrielle Shipe and Ansley Gebben, were high school teammates at The First Academy. The trio helped TFA to a Florida 2A state championship in 2008 before Shipe and Gebben won state titles the next two years for a three-peat.

Leading the Pack
At present, the Lady Flames sit atop the Big South statistical charts in both hitting percentage (.256) and aces per set (2.67).

Additionally, Caroline Douglas is first in the conference with a .447 attack percentage, while Lillie Happel leads with 0.79 aces per set.

Home Opening
The Lady Flames opened the home portion of their 2012 schedule with a 3-1 win over William & Mary on Tuesday night. Liberty has now won its last four home openers, and is 7-2 in its first home match of a season under ninth-year head coach Shane Pinder.

The team spends its next nine matches on the road, meaning 12 out of its first 13 matches will take place away from the Vines Center.

Defense Wins Championships
Last season, Liberty led the Big South with 2.44 blocks per set. The Lady Flames renewed their blocking form with 14.5 blocks on Tuesday night against William & Mary. Loren Thomas, the 2012 Big South Preseason Player of the Year, led the team with nine blocks, and Ansley Gebben chipped in with five blocks.

Gabrielle Shipe collected a career-high 22 digs on Tuesday, topping her previous high of 20, set during the season opener, Aug. 24 against UNCG. She anchored a back row that totaled 67 digs, Tuesday, including 13 from Lillie Happel and 11 by Becca Haraf.

Liberty vs. Jacksonville
All-Time Series:
Jacksonville leads, 1-0
Current Streak: Jacksonville W1
Last Meeting: Jacksonville 3, Liberty 1 (9/24/94 - Jacksonville, Fla.)

Jacksonville (0-3) began a new era this past weekend, as first-year head coach Michelle Collins led the Dolphins during an invitational hosted by the College of Charleston. Junior setter Kendall Courtney earned all-tournament honors in Charleston. Sam Strausbaugh leads Jacksonville with 3.27 kills per set, while Alison Loeppky is the Dolphins' leading blocker, at 0.91 blocks per set. Last season, the Dolphins went 14-17, including 5-8 in Atlantic Sun play.

Liberty and Jacksonville have met just once before, a 3-1 Dolphins victory on Sept. 24, 1994 in Jacksonville. Liberty's 1994 freshman class included four players who would, as seniors, lead the Lady Flames to their first Big South championship in 1997.

The Lady Flames are 5-5 against 2012 members of the Atlantic Sun, and defeated North Florida and Stetson in 2010, in their most recent matches against A-Sun opponents.

Liberty vs. Columbia
All-Time Series:
First Meeting

Columbia opens its 2012 season at the UCF Invitational. The Lions went 15-10 last season, finishing third in the Ivy League with a 9-5 conference record. Columbia is led by former Duke (1980-94) head coach Jon Wilson, who is in his fifth season at Columbia. The Lions return their 2011 leaders in kills (Megan Gaughn), assists (Colleen Brennan), blocks (Savannah Fletcher/Caitlin Brenton) and digs (Charlee Dyroff)

The Lady Flames and Lions will meet for the first time on Friday. Liberty has gone 4-3 all-time against members of the Ivy League, and has won all four meetings with Ivy League foes under head coach Shane Pinder. In 2010, the Lady Flames swept both Pennsylvania and Yale.

Liberty vs. UCF
All-Time Series:
UCF leads, 1-0
Current Streak: UCF W1
Last Meeting: UCF 3, Liberty 2 (9/20/02 - Athens, Ga.)

UCF went 0-3 at its season-opening USF Invitational, falling in five sets to host USF on Saturday. The Knights went 20-11 last season, behind AVCA All-America Honorable Mention selections, setter Rachel Vukson and outside hitter Angelica Crump. Right-side hitter Evija Vilde, a 2011 second-team all-conference member, paces UCF with 3.50 kills per set. Crump is second on the team with 2.92 kills per set this year. Marie Reiterova, replacing the graduated Vukson at setter, leads UCF with 9.92 assists per set.

UCF won the only previous meeting with Liberty, 3-2, on Sept. 20, 2002 in Athens, Ga. Both of Liberty's current assistant coaches, Jennifer (Belk) Vaden and Rebecca Rudnick, played key roles for the Lady Flames in that match. Vaden led Liberty with 17 kills and added 17 digs for a double-double, while Rudnick tallied 12 kills.
Liberty is 6-9 all-time against members of the 2012 constitution of Conference USA.  Most recently, the Lady Flames downed East Carolina in straight sets, Aug. 28, 2010.

Acing the Test
The Lady Flames have served up 40 aces this season, 35 of which came during their season-opening invitational at North Carolina Central last weekend. Liberty totaled 13 aces in the season opener against UNCG on Aug. 24, and followed with 13 more aces the next match, versus N.C. Central. Prior to this season, the last time the Lady Flames had recorded double-digits in aces in back-to-back matches was Oct. 22-23, 2010.