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Swimming & Diving to Open 2014-15 Season, Friday at Campbell

September 24, 2014  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty swimming & diving enters the 2014-15 season as the defending CCSA champion. The Lady Flames will begin the campaign by traveling to Buies Creek, N.C., to compete at conference foe Campbell on Friday at 5 p.m.

This will be the third time in the five-year history of Liberty's swimming & diving program that the Lady Flames have begun a campaign against the Camels. Liberty is 3-2 all-time versus Campbell, winning the last three meetings in a row.

The Lady Flames won their first-ever Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association (CCSA) conference championship last season. Liberty defeated five-time defending CCSA meet champion Florida Gulf Coast by 14 points (732.5 to 718.5).

Liberty went on to earn 43rd place at the 2014 NCAA Division I Women's Swimming & Diving Championships. Sophomore Jess Reinhardt placed 10th in the 100 fly at nationals, giving Liberty a scorer at two out of the last three NCAA championship meets.

Jake Shellenberger, entering his fifth year as head coach, was named CCSA Women's Swimming Coach of the Year in both 2012 (conference runner-up finish) and 2014 (conference championship). Shellenberger has led the Lady Flames since the program's inception, guiding the team to a 42-17 overall dual meet record.

Last season, the Lady Flames were ranked as highly as 13th in the Mid-Major Ranking, while making it to 48th in the Endless Pools/ National Rankings. Liberty went 9-4 in dual meets last year, including victories over Michigan State of the Big Ten and Vanderbilt of the SEC.

This year's team includes 12 newcomers, with 11 freshmen and one transfer comprising nearly half of Liberty's 25-person roster. The Lady Flames' group of returning student-athletes is highlighted by six CCSA individual medalists, and two additional swimmers who competed on medal-winning relays at the conference championship meet last year.

Senior Emily Duff is a six-time individual medalist who specializes in backstroke and the 500 free. Duff currently holds Liberty's program records in the 200 back (1:57.52) and 400 individual medley (4:20.89). She placed second in the 200 back at the 2014 CCSA Championships, with her time of 1:57.52 meeting the NCAA B standard.

Duff was one of four Lady Flames to be named CSCAA Scholar All-Americans last year. Kendall Hough and Meghan Babcock made the first team, while Duff and Bethany Kennon earned honorable mention.

A native of Pfafftown, N.C., Babcock was named CCSA Swimmer of the Week on Oct. 30, 2013. She anchored Liberty's conference-record 200 medley relay team, which posted an NCAA A cut time of 1:37.80 and served as the CCSA's first women's relay to compete at nationals. Babcock placed third in the A final of the 100 free (50.53) at the 2014 conference meet, good for her first career individual medalist honor.

Hough, a junior from Woodbridge, Va., holds Liberty's 50 backstroke record. She swam 25.26 during the lead leg of the Lady Flames' A cut 200 medley relay at the CCSA Championships to set the program standard. She later swam an NCAA B cut in the 100 back prelims (54.66), ranking second in program history, before placing third in the final.

Heather McCorkel, a sophomore from Ellicott City, Md., holds Liberty's program records in the 200 free (1:49.07) and 500 free (4:48.87) after a strong freshman year. She earned two podium finishes at the 2014 CCSA Championships, placing second in the 500 free while earning a third-place medal for the 200 free.

Kristin VanDeventer made an immediate impact on Liberty's distance corps as a sophomore last year after transferring from Virginia. She placed third in the 1,650 free at the 2014 conference meet, swimming a program-record 16:55.28, including a school-record 1,000 free time of 10:11.74 on the way out.

Senior Cori Gary returns as a three-time conference medalist. She placed third in the CCSA 50 free as both a freshman and a sophomore, swimming a B cut in 2012 (22.87) and 2013 (22.96). As a sophomore, her 200 free time of 1:50.73 tied for third at the 2013 CCSA Championships. She earned fifth place in the conference 50 free in 2014. 

All 13 of Liberty's returnees scored at last year's conference meet. In addition to six medalists, Natalie Chambers (100 and 200 back), Ranndi Grubbs (100 fly, 200 IM), Morgan Noonan (200 breaststroke), Chloe Thomas (50 free, 100 free), Victoria Tschoke (100 back, 200 back, 200 IM) and Hannah Wakeley (200 fly, 1,650 free) all earned top-eight finishes at the 2014 CCSA Championships. Jennifer Garzinski qualified for the B final in the 200 backstroke last year, finishing 14th.

Campbell placed seventh at the 2014 CCSA Swimming & Diving Championships. The Camels went 11-3 during the 2013-14 season, breaking 17 program records in the process.

The Camels lost a pair of strong swimmers to graduation, in Kylie Warne and current Campbell assistant coach Cheriesse Campbell. Warne finished as runner-up in the 200 IM, 400 IM and 1,650 free at the 2014 CCSA Championships, while Campbell finished as the team's record holder in the 200 free and 500 free. Junior Lily Tang placed seventh in the 100 back at last year's conference meet, while also holding the Camels' record for the 200 back.

Following Friday's meet, Liberty will embark on its first West Coast trip, to Corvallis, Ore., for a tri-meet against the PAC-12's Oregon State Beavers and Seattle on Oct. 10.

The Lady Flames will face programs from several major conferences this season, including Oregon State of the PAC-12, the Big Ten's Penn State and Virginia Tech of the ACC.