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Lady Flames Set to Take on UNC Asheville, Saturday at Vines Center

September 28, 2017  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Lady Flames Set to Take on UNC Asheville, Saturday at Vines Center

Complete Match Notes

Liberty (4-11, 1-1 Big South) plays its third straight home match to open Big South play, hosting UNC Asheville (6-8, 2-1), on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Vines Center. The Lady Flames split a pair of conference matches last week, while the Bulldogs fell to Gardner-Webb on Tuesday after winning their first two conference matches.

Liberty is 39-22 all-time against UNC Asheville, with the Lady Flames winning 13 out of the last 16 meetings. Liberty swept the season series from UNC Asheville in 2016.

Starting Rotation
1. Liberty picked up its first Big South win and first home win of the season, coming back from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Presbyterian, 3-2, on Saturday. The Lady Flames hit a season-high .290, setting a Vines Center 25-point rally-scoring single-match record with 73 kills.

2. Amaya Williams was named Big South Freshman of the Week on Monday, averaging 11.22 assists per set last week. She posted back-to-back double-doubles last week and dished out a career-high 59 assists on Saturday against PC.

3. Junior libero Margaret Latchford collected her 1,000th career dig, Sept. 12 against VCU. She keeps climbing the ladder in program history, currently ranking 18th with 1,074 career digs. Only 16 players at Liberty have collected 1,100 or more career digs.

4. On Saturday against PC, Anna Gragg (19 kills, .514), Casey Goodwin (15, .536) and Sirena Vorster (14, .542) all hit over .500, the first time in rally-scoring history (since 2001) that three Lady Flames hit .500 or better, with 12 or more kills, in the same match.

5. Shane Pinder, in his 14th season as Liberty's head coach, is the program's all-time winningest coach, at 242-187. He is ranked second all-time among all Big South volleyball coaches in both overall wins and conference victories (136). 

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 opening up conference play with three straight home matches for the first time in program history.

Williams Named Big South Freshman of the Week
Amaya Williams was named Big South Freshman of the Week on Monday after averaging 11.22 assists per set last week. She is the first Liberty setter since Jade Craycraft in 2010 to be named Big South Freshman of the Week.

She totaled double-doubles in both matches, against High Point (42 assists, 13 digs) and versus PC (career-high 59 assists, 12 digs).

Her 59 assists against Presbyterian were the most by a Liberty freshman setter since Courtney Boggs' 64 assists at UNC Asheville, Nov. 7, 2008.

Team Effort
During Saturday's win over PC, Anna Gragg led the way with a career-high 19 kills, while Casey Goodwin scored 15 kills, Sirena Vorster had 14 kills and Gabrielle Vess totaled 13 kills. It was the first time since Nov. 2, 2007 at PC that four Lady Flames posted 13 or more kills, as Jessica Nelson (17), Nicki Scripko (16), Karyl Bacon (15) and Chelaine McCarty (13) led the offense.

Saturday was the first time this season that five Lady Flames reached double-digits in digs. Margaret Latchford collected 21 digs, while Kaitlyn Young collected a career-high 17 digs, Amaya Williams registered 12 digs, Gabrielle Vess had 11 and Victoria Baptista, 10.

Catching 1,000
Junior Margaret Latchford collected her 1,000th career dig during the first set of Liberty's match against VCU, Sept. 12.

Latchford is ranked 18th in program history with 1,074 career digs. Up next on the list are Leanna Miller (1994-97; 1,097 digs) and Becky Shannon (1985-88; 1,118 digs).

In each of its last two matches, Liberty has had two middle blockers in double-digits in kills. Kainah Williams and Anna Gragg both went for 11 kills on Sept. 19 against High Point. Then, on Saturday, Gragg scored 19 kills and Sirena Vorster, 14.

The last time that Liberty had back-to-back matches where both middle blockers went for 10+ kills was Nov. 7-8, 2014, when Nzea McQuitery and Jade Vorster did so.

Freshman Amaya Williams recorded a career-high 59 assists, last Saturday against Presbyterian.

Williams is one of three current Liberty setters with at least one career 50+-assist match. Anna Willey has posted 12 career 50-assist matches, with a career high of 63 assists. Sophomore Hannah Morris has recorded one career 50-assist contest, with a career high of 51 assists. This is the first time in rally-scoring history (since 2001) that three active Liberty players have at least one career 50-assist match to their credit.

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 2.20 blocks per set.

Liberty posted a season-high 14.5 blocks vs. Hofstra on Aug. 26, and recorded back-to-back 14-block contests on Sept. 8 against Southern Utah and Air Force. On Sept. 19 against High Point, the Lady Flames registered their fourth 10-block match of the season.

For the season, Anna Gragg ranks sixh in the Big South with 0.94 blocks per set, while Casey Goodwin is 10th in the conference with 0.84 blocks per set.

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.

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. Williams posted her team-leading fifth double-double of the season, Saturday against PC.

Senior Anna Willey is Liberty's active career leader in double-doubles with 28.

Liberty vs. UNC Asheville
All-Time Series: Liberty leads, 39-22 Current Streak: Liberty W2
Last Meeting: Liberty 3, UNC Asheville 0 (Oct. 29, 2016 – Lynchburg, Va.)
            Liberty 3, UNC Asheville 2 (Sept. 30, 2016 – Asheville, N.C.)
Last UNC Asheville Win: UNC Asheville 3, Liberty 1 (Nov. 13, 2015 – Lynchburg, Va.)

UNC Asheville (6-8, 2-1 Big South) won its first two conference matches before falling in five sets at Gardner-Webb on Tuesday. For the season, the Bulldogs are ranked 20th nationally with 1.71 aces per set. In Big South matches only, UNC Asheville leads the conference in opponents' hitting percentage (.164) and is second in aces per set (2.31).

2017 Big South All-Conference honorable mention selection Cara Guthrie ranks third in the Big South in kills per set, both overall (3.59) and in conference play (3.85). Ava Venema ranks fourth in the Big South with a .329 attack percentage, while KK Haley and Sheridan Salisbury are ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, in the conference in aces.

Series History
Liberty leads UNC Asheville, 39-22, in the all-time series, including 20-11 under Shane Pinder. These two teams split the season series in both 2014 and 2015 before Liberty swept the season series last year. Liberty is 13-3 in the last 16 matchups overall.

The Lady Flames hold a 7-3 lead all-time in conference tournament matches against UNC Asheville, last eliminating the Bulldogs in the 2013 Big South quarterfinals.

2016 Recap
UNC Asheville won sets one and two against Liberty on Sept. 30, 2016, and appeared on the way to a sweep, leading set three, 19-16, before the Lady Flames made a furious comeback to win in five sets. That victory started Liberty's eight-match winning streak.

Leah Clayton led Liberty with 18 kills, while UNC Asheville's Cara Guthrie scored a match-high 22 kills.

Liberty then dominated the Bulldogs in three sets (25-18, 25-19, 25-19), Oct. 29 at the Vines Center, outhitting them, .229-.138 while getting 13 kills from Gabrielle Vess.

Here Comes the Comeback
Down, 2-1 in the match and trailing set four, 21-16, Liberty went on a 9-1 run to take the fourth set before winning set five, 15-8, Saturday against PC. It was Liberty's first five-set win since coming back from a 2-1 deficit at Gardner-Webb, Oct. 22, 2016.

Also, on Saturday, Anna Gragg (19 kills), Casey Goodwin (15 kills), Sirena Vorster (14 kills) and Gabrielle Vess (13 kills) all reached double-figures in kills. The last time before that where four Lady Flames recorded 10+ kills in the same match was Oct. 22, 2016.

Early Returns
Two matches into Big South play, Anna Gragg (.475) and Casey Goodwin (.421) rank second and third, respectively, in the conference in hitting percentage, while Amaya Williams ranks third in the Big South with 11.22 assists per set against league competition.