Scores & Schedule Close keyboard_arrow_down

Team News

Liberty Volleyball Set for Season-Opening Cavalier Classic

August 24, 2017  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
|   Share
Liberty Volleyball Set for Season-Opening Cavalier Classic

Complete Match Notes

Cavalier Classic Tournament Central Page

The Liberty volleyball team opens its 2017 schedule by competing in the Cavalier Classic in Charlottesville, Va. The Lady Flames will take on Villanova at 4 p.m. on Friday before facing Virginia at noon on Saturday and Hofstra at 4:30 p.m.

Liberty is 1-2 all-time against Villanova, and holds a 3-30 record versus Virginia. The Lady Flames downed the Cavaliers, 3-2, on Sept. 23, 2014 in the Vines Center, the teams' most recent meeting. Liberty and Hofstra will meet for the first time on Saturday.

How to Follow the Lady Flames
Fans can follow all matches at the Cavalier Classic through live stats, appearing courtesy of Virginia Athletics Media Relations.

Starting Rotation
1. Liberty is coming off a 16-13 season last year, during which the Lady Flames finished second in the Big South with an 11-5 conference record. The team is 123-37 (.768) in Big South play since 2007.

2. Shane Pinder, entering his 14th season as Liberty's head coach, is the program's all-time winningest coach, at 238-176. He ranks second all-time among Big South volleyball head coaches in career victories.

3. The Lady Flames were predicted to finish third in the Big South preseason coaches' poll. Additionally, senior setter Anna Willey and sophomore middle blocker Anna Gragg were voted to the Preseason All-Big South team.

4. Gragg posted a program freshman-record 108 blocks last season, joining fellow middle blocker Sirena Vorster on the Big South All-Conference honorable mention listing.

5. Willey, a two-time Big South All-Conference selection, ranked second in the Big South in assists each of the last two seasons.

6. Liberty has gone 8-21 in season openers during the NCAA Division I era, since 1988, including 5-8 under Pinder. The Lady Flames won their season opener in 2014 and 2015 before falling to Pitt to start the 2016 campaign.

7. Junior libero Margaret Latchford has collected 876 career digs, the most digs by any Lady Flame in her first two seasons at Liberty. She also holds Liberty's rally-scoring single-match record for digs (38 at Campbell, 10/9/15).

The Matchups
Liberty vs. Villanova (Villanova leads, 2-1) Current Series Streak: Villanova W2
Last Meeting: Villanova 3, Liberty 1 (Sept. 14, 2007 – Williamsburg, Va.)
Last Liberty Win: Liberty 3, Villanova 0 (Nov. 11, 1989 – Villanova, Pa.)

Villanova went 18-13 last year, tying for fifth in the BIG EAST with a 9-9 conference record. The Wildcats were predicted to finish fifth in the 2017 preseason BIG EAST poll.

Senior Allie Loitz leads the way. A 2016 All-BIG EAST first-team selection, Loitz led the team with 347 kills last season.

Villanova won the most recent meeting, 3-1, over Liberty on Sept. 14, 2007 in Williamsburg, Va. The next day, Liberty defeated William & Mary. Current Liberty assistant coach Cassie Crumal dished out a career-high 66 assists for the Tribe against Liberty.

Liberty vs. Virginia (Virginia leads, 30-3) Current Series Streak: Liberty W1
Last Meeting: Liberty 3, Virginia 2 (Sept. 23, 2014 – Lynchburg, Va.)
Last Virginia Win: Virginia 3, Liberty 2 (Sept. 15, 2012 – Charlottesville, Va.)

Virginia is coming off of a 7-25 season, including 4-16 in ACC play. First-year head coach Aaron Smith spent the last five seasons on Virginia's staff before taking over for Dennis Hohenshelt this year.

The Cavaliers will look to replace production of graduated seniors Haley Kole and Jasmoine Burton, who both recorded 1,000 or more career kills.

On Sept. 23, 2014 in the Vines Center, Liberty downed Virginia, 3-2, behind 27 kills from Caroline Douglas. It was the Lady Flames' first win over the Cavaliers since Nov. 1, 1979 in Charlottesville, Va.

Liberty vs. Hofstra (First Meeting)

Hofstra posted a 20-10 record last season, going 10-6 in CAA play and tying for second in the conference. The Pride made the NCAA Tournament in 2014, current head coach Emily Mansur's first season, before winning the CAA regular-season title in 2015.

2016 CAA Rookie of the Year Laura Masciullo returns after leading the team with 374 kills. Middle blocker Michela Rucli was named to the 2016 All-CAA second team.

Season Opening
After winning its season opener in both 2014 and 2015, Liberty fell to Pittsburgh to begin the 2016 season.

The Lady Flames are now 5-8 in season openers under Head Coach Shane Pinder.

This will be the second time in program history, and first since 1997, that the Lady Flames have begun a season in Charlottesville, Va. That year, Liberty went 1-3 at a tournament held by Virginia.

Liberty's Last Win Over a:
BIG EAST Team: Sept. 9, 2014 - Liberty 3, Georgetown 1 (Washington, D.C.)
ACC Team: Sept. 23, 2014 - Liberty 3, Virginia 2 (Lynchburg, Va.)
CAA Team: Oct. 14, 2014 - Liberty 3, William & Mary 0 (Lynchburg, Va.)

Preseason Postings
Liberty was predicted to finish third in the Big South preseason poll, behind defending Big South tournament champion High Point and 2016 Big South regular-season champion Radford, in that order.

Additionally, senior setter Anna Willey and sophomore middle blocker Anna Gragg were named to the Preseason All-Big South team. Willey is a two-time all-conference selection, while Gragg received All-Big South honorable mention as a freshman last year.

Setting the Stage
Senior Anna Willey enters her final campaign ranked eighth in program history with 2,254 career assists. She has ranked second in the Big South in assists each of the last two years. Additionally, she posted 12 double-doubles in both 2015 and 2016. Willey has totaled nine 40-assist matches and five 50-assist contests.

Sophomore Hannah Morris played well when called upon as a freshman last year, registering four 40-assist matches, one 50-assist contest and three double-doubles. She was the first Liberty freshman since Jade Craycraft in 2010 with a 50-assist match.

Freshman Amaya Williams joins the setting contingent this fall, from North Raleigh Christian Academy.

Dig In
Margaret Latchford burst onto the scene as a freshman, setting a program freshman record with 502 digs in 2015. She enters her junior campaign with 876 career digs, the most by any Lady Flame in her first two seasons at Liberty. For her career, she has posted 12 20-dig contests and three 30-dig matches. On Oct. 2, 2015 at Campbell, Latchford collected a program rally-scoring single-match record 38 digs, the most by a Big South player in any match that season.

The Lady Flames welcome freshmen Alexis Berrios (Fayetteville, Ga.) and Kaitlyn Young (Bowie, Md.) to the back row.

Center of Attention
Liberty led the Big South with 2.45 blocks per set last season, also holding opponents to a .169 hitting percentage. Middle blockers Sirena Vorster and Anna Gragg were both awarded Big South All-Conference honorable mention last year.

Vorster finished the 2016 season ranked third in the Big South in blocks per set (1.04) and eighth in hitting percentage (.257). She posted five or more blocks 10 times, including a career-high-tying nine blocks against Missouri.

Gragg turned in a standout freshman campaign in 2016, setting a new program freshman record with 108 blocks. She ranked fourth in the Big South in both blocks per set (1.04) and attack percentage (.302), registering nine five-block matches.

Sophomore Kainah Williams returns after a freshman season that saw her post eight blocks at Radford, while 6-foot-4 Kailey Macey joins the roster from Durham, N.C.

Outside Chance
Gabrielle Vess is Liberty's top returnee at the outside hitter position. She finished the 2016 season ranked second on the team with 229 kills, recording 14 double-digit kill matches and three double-doubles. With 492 career kills, she is the team's active kill leader.

Brazil native Victoria Baptista joins the team after a successful two-year career at Panola College, where she was a two-time all-conference selection.

Sophomore Payton Carter and freshman Darian Finnerty (Timberlake Christian Academy) should also battle for time on the outside.          

Right Side
Casey Goodwin made an immediate impact as a freshman right-side hitter last year. She posted seven 10-kill matches in 2016, highlighted by a 20-kill effort against USC Upstate. She followed that match by scoring 18 kills against Furman.

Freshman Jenna Culhan was named a 2016 CBS MaxPreps Small Schools All-American, while junior Lydia Smith joins the Lady Flames after transferring from Cape Fear Community College.