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Liberty, High Point to Square Off in Big South Opener, Tuesday at Vines Center

September 18, 2017  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty, High Point to Square Off in Big South Opener, Tuesday at Vines Center

Complete Match Notes

Liberty (3-10) opens Big South play on Tuesday at 7 p.m., hosting defending Big South tournament champion High Point (7-6) at the Vines Center. This will be the second year in a row that the Lady Flames have opened conference play against the Panthers. High Point was voted first, and Liberty third, in the Big South Preseason Coaches' Poll.
Liberty has fared well in Big South Conference openers, going 20-6. The Lady Flames are 8-0 when their conference-opening match takes place in the Vines Center.

Starting Rotation
1. Liberty went 1-2 at the Courtyard by Marriott Tournament to wrap up non-conference play. The Lady Flames hit a season-best .273 in a 3-1 win over Morgan State, Saturday. Anna Gragg was named to the all-tournament team for the second week in a row.

2. Junior libero Margaret Latchford collected her 1,000th career dig, last Tuesday against VCU. She is now ranked 19th in program history with 1,038 career digs. She needs six more digs to pass Cristi Cherry (1995-98) into 18th place.

3. Amaya Williams recorded back-to-back double-doubles last Tuesday against VCU and Friday at UNCW. She is the first Liberty freshman setter since Courtney Boggs (Nov. 7-8, 2008) with back-to-back double-doubles.

4. Shane Pinder, in his 14th season as Liberty's head coach, is the program's all-time winningest coach, at 241-186. He is ranked second all-time among all Big South volleyball coaches in both overall wins and conference victories (135). 

5. Last Friday at UNCW, Kainah Williams scored a career-high 11 kills, while Anna Gragg sent down 10 kills. It was the first time this season that two Liberty middle blockers recorded 10 or more kills in the same match.

6. 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.

7. Liberty is 20-6 all-time in Big South openers, including 3-1 in conference-opening matches against High Point.

Liberty vs. High Point (Liberty leads, 31-14) Current Series Streak: High Point W1
2016 Matches: High Point 3, Liberty 2 (Nov. 19, 2016 – Lynchburg, Va. (BSC Semi))
Liberty 3, High Point 0 (Nov. 5, 2016 – Lynchburg, Va.)
High Point 3, Liberty 1 (Sept. 23, 2016 – High Point, N.C.)

Defending Big South tournament champion High Point enters conference play at 7-6, having won its last two matches. The Panthers have wins over Oklahoma and Georgia this season. Liberty and High Point have faced three common opponents in VCU, UNCW and Elon. High Point is 2-1 against those teams, while the Lady Flames went 0-3.

Two-time Big South All-Conference first team selection Haley Barnes joined the 1,000 kill/1,000 dig club on Saturday. She is ranked second in the Big South with 0.43 aces per set. Two-time all-conference middle blocker Molly Livingston is ranked second in the Big South in both hitting percentage (.349) and blocks per set (1.14). Freshman Abby Bottomley paces the conference with 5.08 digs per set.

Series History
Liberty leads the all-time series over High Point, 31-14, including a 15-14 mark under Pinder. High Point has won seven out of the last 10 meetings in the series, dating to 2013. These two teams met in the 2010 Big South Volleyball Championship title match, which High Point won to claim its first conference volleyball title.

2016 Series Recap
High Point downed the Lady Flames, 3-1, on Sept. 23, 2016 in Liberty's Big South opener. Katie Tylman scored a match-high 15 kills at a .480 pace, while Liberty's Anna Gragg and Gabrielle Vess sent down nine kills each.

Liberty then turned the tables, sweeping the Panthers, 3-0, Nov. 5, 2016 in the Vines Center. The Lady Flames clinched the No. 2 seed and tiebreaker over High Point with the win, in which Liberty outhit the Panthers, .316-.140. That was Liberty's most recent victory in the Vines Center.

The Panthers avenged their loss just two weeks later in the Vines Center, claiming a 3-2 win over Liberty in the Big South semifinal. High Point went on to beat Radford the following day, for its second Big South volleyball title.

Conference Opening
Liberty is 20-6 all-time in Big South openers, winning 10 out of its last 12 conference-opening matches. The Lady Flames begin their conference schedule against High Point for the second year in a row, after the Panthers edged Liberty, 3-1, Sept. 23, 2016 in the Millis Center.

Liberty has gone 3-1 all-time in Big South openers against High Point, downing the Panthers to begin the conference slate in 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Liberty junior libero Margaret Latchford and High Point freshman libero Abby Bottomley were teammates for two seasons at Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach, Va.

A pair of freshmen, Liberty's Amaya Williams and High Point's Ali Thanhauser, both played for North Raleigh Christian Academy, helping the team win back-to-back 3A NCISAA State titles in 2015 and 2016.

Catching 1,000
Junior Margaret Latchford collected her 1,000th career dig during the first set of Liberty's match against VCU, last Tuesday. She became the 21st player in program history to record her 1,000th career dig. 

Latchford is ranked 19th in program history with 1,038 career digs. Up next on the Cristi Cherry (1995-98; 1,043 digs) and Leanna Miller (1994-97; 1,097 digs).

Last Friday at UNCW, Kainah Williams recorded her first career 10-kill match, with 11 kills, while Anna Gragg scored 10 kills. During set two, Williams hit 7-0-7, while Gragg hit 6-1-8.

It was the first time since Oct. 22, 2016 at Gardner-Webb (Sirena Vorster - 12 kills, Gragg - 11) that both Liberty middle blockers recorded 10+ kills in the same match.

Freshman Amaya Williams dished out 40 assists at UNCW, last Friday, and recorded a career-high 43 assists on Saturday against Morgan State.

Williams is one of three current Liberty setters with at least one career 40+-assist match. Senior Anna Willey has posted 28 career 40-assist matches, with a career high of 63 assists. Sophomore Hannah Morris has recorded four career 40-assist contests, with a career high of 51 assists.

Willey ranks eighth in program history with 2,437 career assists.

A year after leading the Big South with 2.45 blocks per set, Liberty has picked up its net defense where it left off, ranking second in the conference with 2.21 blocks per set.

During both matches on Sept. 8 against Southern Utah and Air Force, Liberty posted 14 blocks. The match versus Southern Utah saw Sirena Vorster tie her career high with nine blocks while Gabrielle Vess posted a career-high six blocks.

Against Air Force, Kainah Williams recorded a career-high eight blocks, including three solo blocks. The last Liberty player to post three solo blocks in a match was Jade Vorster against Presbyterian, Oct. 24, 2014.

Anna Gragg ranks fourth in the Big South with 0.98 blocks per set, while Casey Goodwin (0.83 bps) is ninth.

On Sept. 8 against Southern Utah, Gabrielle Vess (17 kills, 12 digs), Victoria Baptista (12 kills, 16 digs) and Anna Willey (44 assists, 10 digs) all recorded double-doubles. It marked the first time since Aug. 27, 2016 at Kennesaw State (Vess, Leah Clayton, Hannah Morris) that three Lady Flames registered double-doubles in the same match.

Amaya Williams, making her first start on Aug. 26 against Virginia, registered a double-double with 36 assists and 10 digs. She is the first Liberty freshman since Lillie Happel (Aug. 27, 2010 vs. Cleveland State) to record a double-double in her first start.

Senior Anna Willey is Liberty's active career leader in double-doubles with 28, including 12 double-doubles in both 2015 and 2016.

Digging Deep
Liberty has averaged 19.15 digs per set during its first four home matches this season. For the year, the Lady Flames rank fourth in the Big South with 14.66 digs per set.

Margaret Latchford (3.45 dps) is ranked seventh in the conference in digs.

On Sept. 2 against Elon, Latchford (30 digs) and Gabrielle Vess (22) became the first Liberty teammates since Caila Stapleton (25) and Gabrielle Shipe (24), Sept. 26, 2014 against Radford, with 20+ digs in the same match.

Baptista, a transfer from Panola College in Texas, became the first player since Karyl Bacon in 2007 to collect 10+ digs in each of her first three matches at Liberty.