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Liberty Volleyball Prepares for Friday's Season Opener Against Pitt

August 24, 2016  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Complete Match Notes

Kennesaw State Invitational Tournament Central

Liberty will open its 2016 volleyball schedule by playing at the Kennesaw State Invitational. The Lady Flames will face Pitt at 5 p.m. on Friday, before taking on host Kennesaw State at 12:30 p.m. and Missouri at 5:30 p.m., Saturday.

Earlier this week, LFSN reporter Alan York had a chance to interview junior setter Anna Willey.

Liberty's three opponents this weekend, Pitt (23-9), Kennesaw State (19-9) and Missouri (27-6) went a combined 69-24 (.741) last season.

The Lady Flames will meet the Panthers and Owls for the first time, while Liberty took on Missouri Sept. 12, 2015, falling to the Tigers, 3-1 in Boone, N.C.

How to Follow the Lady Flames
Live stats will be available for all of this weekend's matches at the Kennesaw State Invitational through StatBroadcast. Liberty's match against Kennesaw State on Saturday will air live on ESPN3.com. Links will appear on LibertyFlames.com as they become available.

Starting Rotation
1.   Liberty got off to a 3-0 start last season, finishing 14-14 on the year. The Lady Flames placed third in the Big South with a 9-5 conference record, the 10th year in a row in which the team won at least nine conference matches.

2.   Shane Pinder, entering his 13th season as Liberty's head coach, became the program's all-time leader in career victories Oct. 3, 2014 at Gardner-Webb. At 222-163, Pinder ranks third all-time in Big South career coaching victories.

3.   The Lady Flames were predicted to finish second in the Big South preseason coaches' poll. Additionally, junior setter Anna Willey and sophomore libero Margaret Latchford were voted to the Preseason All-Big South team.

4.   Latchford posted a program freshman-record 502 digs last season, collecting a Liberty rally-scoring-record 38 digs in a 3-2 win over Campbell, Oct. 9.

5.   Willey, a 2015 all-conference second team selection, led the Big South with 11.29 assists per set in conference play, including a career-high 63 assists at Gardner-Webb.

6.   Liberty has gone 8-20 in season openers during the NCAA Division I era, since 1988, including 5-7 under Pinder. The Lady Flames have won their last two openers in a row.

7.   The Lady Flames have seven returnees and seven newcomers. Liberty will look to fill in for four-time all-conference middle blocker Jade Vorster (909 career kills, .344, 462 blocks) and three-time All-Big South outside hitter Caroline Douglas (1,360 kills).

Liberty vs. Pittsburgh (First Meeting)
Pittsburgh was predicted to finish fifth in the ACC preseason poll after going 23-9 with a 13-7 conference record last season. The Panthers lose a pair of AVCA Honorable Mention All-Americans from last year's team, Amanda Orchard and Kadi Kullerkann.

Redshirt senior middle blocker Amanda Potts leads the returnees, as she was voted to the Preseason All-ACC team. Mariah Bell is Pitt's top returning attacker, avergaing 2.79 kills per set in 2015.

Liberty vs. Kennesaw State (First Meeting)
Kennesaw State is coming off of its best season in program history, as the Owls posted a 19-9 record in 2015. The Owls were predicted to finish second in the Atlantic Sun preseason coaches' poll, after finishing as the A-Sun runners-up last season.

Anaiah Boyer returns after leading the Owls in kills and earning All-Atlantic Sun first team honors last year. Sydni Shelton was named to the 2015 A-Sun All-Freshman team in addition to second team all-conference honors.

Liberty vs. Missouri (Missouri Leads, 1-0)
Previous Meeting:
Missouri 3, Liberty 1 (Sept. 12, 2015 - Boone, N.C.)

Missouri received votes in the preseason AVCA NCAA Division I national poll, following a 27-6 record and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2015.

The Tigers return two-time AVCA Honorable Mention All-American Carly Kan, along with 2015 honorable mention All-Americans Kira Larson and Alyssa Munlyn.

Missouri downed Liberty, 3-1, on Sept. 12, 2015 at the Appalachian State Invitational, improving to 9-0 on the season with the come-from-behind victory. Liberty's Caroline Douglas scored 12 kills, while Anna Willey totaled 40 assists and 10 digs.

Season Opening
Liberty has won its season opener each of the last two years, sweeping San Jose State to start the 2014 season and taking a 3-0 match from UNCG to begin 2015.

The Lady Flames are now 5-7 in season openers under Head Coach Shane Pinder.

This will be the second time in program history, and first since 2011, that the Lady Flames have begun a season in Georgia. That year, Liberty went 1-2 at the Georgia Bulldog Invitational.

Top of the List
Liberty Head Coach Shane Pinder is in his 13th season and holds a 222-163 overall career record.

On Oct. 3, 2014 at Gardner-Webb, he passed Chris Phillips (1992-97, 99-03) for first place on Liberty's all-time volleyball wins list. With a 3-1 win at UNC Asheville on Oct. 4, he became the fourth volleyball coach in Big South history with 200 or more career wins.

Pinder needs two more wins to pass former Coastal Carolina Head Coach Kristen Bauer (1999-2011) for second all-time in career wins among Big South volleyball coaches.

Liberty's Last Win Over an:
ACC Team:
Sept. 23, 2014 - Liberty 3, Virginia 2 (Lynchburg, Va.)

Atlantic Sun Team: Aug. 31, 2012 - Liberty 3, Jacksonville 2 (Orlando, Fla.)

SEC Team: Sept. 9, 2001 - Liberty 3, Alabama 2 (Cincinnati, Ohio)

Dishing it Out
Junior Anna Willey returns after dishing out 1,096 assists last season, becoming the seventh Lady Flame in rally-scoring history with a 1,000-assist season.

She led the conference with 11.29 assists per set during Big South matches. Willey also posted a team-high 12 double-doubles, while adding 12 40-assist matches, seven 50-assist contests and one 60-assist match. Her career-high 63 assists at Gardner-Webb (Nov. 14) were the most by a Big South setter in 2015.

Freshman Hannah Morris joins the Lady Flames as a setter, after Morris' older sister, Rachel, was Willey's understudy last year.

Dig In
Margaret Latchford collected a program freshman-record 502 digs last season, the ninth most in a single season in program history, and sixth most in Liberty's rally-scoring records. She finished the season ranked fifth in the Big South with 4.67 digs per set.

A two-time Big South Defensive Player of the Week, she totaled 11 20-dig matches and three 30-dig contests as a freshman. She collected a program rally-scoring-record 38 digs at Campbell (Oct. 2), the most digs by a Big South player in 2015.

Michelle Melendez, Liberty's lone senior, finished the 2015 season ranked third on the team with 2.13 digs per set after transferring from Palm Beach State.

Outside Chance
Caroline Douglas, the 2012 Big South Freshman and Player of the Year, graduated following the 2015 season. She earned three first team all-conference awards, scoring 1,360 career kills.

With Douglas' departure, junior Gabrielle Vess returns as the most experienced outside hitter on the roster. Vess finished 2015 ranked third on the team in kills. She recorded back-to-back double-doubles to close the season, including an 18-kill, 14-dig effort versus Radford in the first round of the 2015 Big South Volleyball Championship.

Redshirt sophomore Sydney Morris also saw time on the outside last year, while freshmen Leah Clayton and Payton Carter should battle for time as well.

Own the Net
Jade Vorster graduated following a career in which she earned four all-conference awards. In her two years at Liberty after transferring from Hawai'i, she set single-season program rally-scoring records in both hitting percentage and solo blocks.

Junior Sirena Vorster, a 2014 Big South All-Freshman team selection, finished the 2015 season ranked second on the team in both blocks and attack percentage. She recorded five or more blocks on seven occasions.

A trio of freshmen, Anna Gragg, Kainah Williams and Meegan Williams, is set to contend for playing time in the middle.

Right Side, Strong Side
Hannah Weidner, the 2014 VaSID All-State Freshman of the Year, tied a program record with 19 straight 10-kill matches as a freshman. She enters her junior campaign with 506 career kills, including 25 double-digit kill matches.

Casey Goodwin, a freshman from Rougemont, N.C., aims to challenge for time on the right side this season.

Half and Half
Exactly half of this year's 14-member roster is made up of freshmen. Liberty's seven-player freshman class is its largest since 2012, when seven freshmen helped the Lady Flames capture their seventh, and most recent, Big South Volleyball Championship title.