Lady Flames return to defend title

Preseason Player of the Year Loren Thomas leads a talented and experienced attack this season

Primed — With the core of his lineup returning along with several new additions, coach Shane Pinder looks to build on last year’s Big South Championship. Photo Credit: Ruth Bibby

As reigning Big South Champions, Lady Flames Volleyball and head coach Shane Pinder are back and ready for another great season.

According to Pinder, the Lady Flames have a lot of new talent on the court this year along with several returning starters. He explained that there could possibly be multiple lineups throughout the season due to the amount of talent on the team.

Pinder explained how they have seven new freshman in the lineup and are working together to integrate and learn how to play with each other out on the court.

Big South Preseason Player of the Year Loren Thomas is back in action as the Lady Flames middle blocker.

Thomas has one of the biggest verticals in the league, and Pinder is looking to her as a leader this season, he said.

First Team All-Conference player Lillie Happel is another one to keep eyes on this season. She is a returning outside hitter for the Lady Flames. Happel dominated last year with 396 kills. Happel is alongside Thomas on the Preseason All-Big South team.

Returning this year is Second Team All-Conference setter Jade Craycraft. Pinder described Craycraft as a “very talented setter.”

Photo Credit: Ruth Bibby

Also returning this season is middle blocker Kendle Rollins. Alongside Rollins are defensive specialists Gabrielle Shipe and Becca Haraf. There is a lot of experience on the court this season as opposed to last season, Pinder said.

Pinder wants to hold to the vision of the late Jerry Falwell and the idea that the athletics program should come under the umbrella of training champions for Christ.

“These kids are here for the right reasons and are great fits here at Liberty,” Pinder said. “Their journey with Christ is as big of a part as the championships and the wins accumulated.”

According to, the Lady Flames were awarded the American Volleyball Coaches Association Team Academic Award for the second year in a row. The award is given to a team with a cumulative grade-point-average of at least a 3.30. The Lady Flames surpassed that with a 3.42 GPA for the 2011-12 academic year.

The Lady Flames have been voted to win the Big South Championship for this season and are hoping to make that become reality over the next several months.

“We got a lot of good things happening,” Pinder said.

The Flames volleyball team has its home season opener at the Vines Center on Aug. 28 against William and Mary.

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