The Liberty volleyball team went 16-13 overall during the 2016 season, including an 11-5 record in Big South play. The Lady Flames earned the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye into the 2016 Big South Volleyball Championship semifinals. Liberty's 11 conference wins were the team's most since going 12-2 in Big South play in 2012.
LFSN reporter Alan York recently had the chance to catch up with 13th-year Head Coach Shane Pinder to discuss the recently-competed 2016 campaign.
Season Highlights: • The Lady Flames hosted the 2016 Big South Volleyball Championship at the Vines Center. Competing in the Big South semifinal for the first time since 2013, Liberty was edged out in a tight, five-set contest by eventual champion High Point. In that match, 2016 Big South Freshman of the Year Leah Clayton scored 26 kills and added 19 digs. Clayton was named to the Big South All-Tournament team after scoring the most kills by a Lady Flame in a tournament match under the current 25-point rally-scoring system.
• After opening Big South play at 0-2 with tough losses at High Point and Radford, Liberty battled back from a 2-0 deficit to win at UNC Asheville, Sept. 30. That win sparked an eight-match winning streak during which Liberty went 5-0 in five-set matches.
• Freshmen played a key role throughout the season, as six freshmen made at least one start. In fact, all six freshmen (Payton Carter, Leah Clayton, Casey Goodwin, Anna Gragg, Hannah Morris and Kainah Williams) were on the court to start the Lady Flames' five-set win at UNC Asheville, Sept. 30.
• The Lady Flames were stout defensively, leading the Big South and ranking 46th in the nation with 2.45 blocks per set. Additionally, Liberty ranked 32nd nationally with a .169 opponents' hitting percentage on the season. The Lady Flames also tied a program rally-scoring-record with 14 10-block matches.
• Pinder passed former Coastal Carolina head coach Kristen Bauer and moved second place in Big South history in career coaching wins this year. Pinder is Liberty's all-time winningest volleyball coach, with a 238-176 career record and 135-53 Big South ledger. • Leah Clayton was named the Big South Player of the Week on Oct. 3, and was voted Big South Freshman of the Week three times. Additionally, Anna Gragg (Sept. 19 and Oct. 17) and Casey Goodwin both received Freshman of the Week honors. It marked the first time in program history that three Lady Flames received Big South Freshman of the Week honors in the same season.
• For the 10th year in a row, Liberty placed three or more players on the Big South All-Conference team. Leah Clayton was named the Big South Freshman of the Year, the seventh player in program history to receive the award. Clayton is also the fourth freshman in program history to be voted to the Big South All-Conference first team. Junior setter Anna Willey received second team all-conference honors and was included on the all-academic team. Middle blockers Anna Gragg and Sirena Vorster both earned honorable mention all-conference awards, while Gragg also joined Clayton on the All-Freshman team.
• Clayton finished the season ranked second in the Big South in both kills per set (4.07) and points per set (4.57). She ranked fifth among all NCAA Division I freshmen in kills per set. Clayton recorded 15 double-digit kill matches, seven 20-kill contests and 10 double-doubles. She posted 25 or more kills in each of the last two matches.
• Willey has earned back-to-back all-conference honors at the setter position. She ranked second in the Big South with 9.67 assists per set. The junior led the team with 12 double-doubles for the second year in a row. She recorded nine 40-assist matches and five 50-assist contests.
• Vorster was among the league leaders in blocking all season, finishing third with 1.07 blocks per set. Also, her 0.33 aces per set ranked ninth in the Big South. She recorded five or more blocks 10 times.
• Gragg recorded 108 blocks during her first season at Liberty, setting a new program freshman record in the process. She ranked fourth in the Big South in both hitting percentage (.302) and blocks per set (1.04).
• After setting a program freshman record with 502 digs in 2015, Margaret Latchford followed up with 374 digs this season. Her 876 career digs are the most by any Lady Flame through her first two seasons at Liberty.
• Fans came out in full force this year, as the Lady Flames averaged 932 fans over 12 home matches. Five times, Liberty drew at least 1,000 fans to the Vines Center, including a season-high 1,506 fans for a 3-0 sweep of Gardner-Webb, Oct. 7. Four out of the top six single-match attendance figures in Vines Center volleyball history were obtained this season.
Like Us on Facebook
Follow Us on Twitter
Follow Us on Instagram