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Liberty Wraps Up Regular-Season Play at UNC Asheville, Gardner-Webb

November 8, 2017  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty Wraps Up Regular-Season Play at UNC Asheville, Gardner-Webb

Complete Match Notes

Liberty (10-17, 7-7 Big South) wraps up regular-season play this week, playing at UNC Asheville (12-14, 8-7) on Thursday at 7 p.m. before finishing the schedule at Gardner-Webb (7-20, 1-13), Saturday at 2 p.m. The Lady Flames trail UNC Asheville by a half-match in conference standings, and would wrap up the No. 4 seed in the upcoming Big South Volleyball Championship with a win on Thursday.

Starting Rotation
1. Liberty has won its regular-season finale 19 out of the last 20 seasons, starting with the 1997 campaign.

2. Anna Gragg scored 26 kills at a .524 pace at PC on Friday. Her 26 kills are the most by a Big South middle blocker in a single match this season, and most kills by a Liberty middle blocker in rally-scoring history (since 2001). Her previous career high was 19 kills.

3. Junior libero Margaret Latchford passed Theresa Passamani (2000-03) for 11th place in program history last Friday, with 1,282 career digs. Latchford needs 25 digs to pass Athena Sherwood (1996-99) for 10th place in program history.

4. Gabrielle Vess (11 kills, 10 digs) and Amaya Williams (45 assists, 12 digs) both posted double-doubles on Friday at PC. Vess leads the Lady Flames with nine double-doubles this season, while Williams has posted seven double-doubles.

5. Amaya Williams has been named Big South Freshman of the Week twice this season. She leads all Big South freshman setters with 8.90 assists per set in conference play. Her 59 assists against PC on Sept. 23 are the most by a Big South setter this season.

6. Shane Pinder, in his 14th season as Liberty's head coach, is the program's all-time winningest coach, at 248-193. He is ranked second all-time among all Big South volleyball coaches in both overall wins and conference victories (142). 

7. The six qualified teams for the 2017 Big South Volleyball Championship are set, in High Point, Radford, Campbell, UNC Asheville, Liberty and Winthrop. The top three seeds, in this order, will be High Point, Radford and Campbell.

Monster Match
Anna Gragg scored 26 kills at a .524 pace last Friday at PC. Her 26 kills were the most by a Liberty middle blocker in any match in rally-scoring history, and the most by any Liberty player in a four-set match under the current 25-point rally-scoring system.

Sirena Vorster added eight kills, while Kainah Williams scored two kills, meaning 36 out of Liberty's 60 kills came from the middle blocker position. Those 36 kills are the most by Liberty's middle blockers in any match under 14th-year head coach Shane Pinder.

Latchford Leaps to 11th Place in Program History
Junior Margaret Latchford collected her 1,000th career dig against VCU, Sept. 12. She is now ranked 11th in program history with 1,282 career digs. The next two players for her to pass are: Athena Sherwood (10th; 1996-99; 1,306) and Liberty Athletics and Big South Hall of Famer Anthonia Akpama (9th; 1996-99; 1,312).

She collected 21 digs on Oct. 27 against Gardner-Webb, the most digs by a Lady Flame in a three-set match so far this season.

On the Attack
Liberty hit .159 as a team in non-conference matches this season. The Lady Flames have turned it on in conference play, hitting .213 as a team.

On Oct. 20 at Winthrop, Liberty hit a season-best .333. It was the team's highest hitting percentage in a Big South match since hitting .371 at Presbyterian, Oct. 23, 2015. Casey Goodwin led the way with 16 kills, including 10 kills during set three. She is the first Liberty player since Caroline Douglas against UNC Asheville in 2012 to score 10 kills in one set.  Liberty hit a sensational .520 (16-3-25) during the third set, a 25-10 win.

Team Effort
Liberty has had several players turn in big dig totals this season. Margaret Latchford's 30 digs against Elon, Sept. 2, were the most by a Lady Flame this season, while Gabrielle Vess collected 22 digs in the same match. Victoria Baptista has collected 18 digs twice, while Kaitlyn Young had a season-high 17 digs against Presbyterian, Sept. 23. Freshmen Amaya Williams and Jenna Culhan have both posted 13-dig matches this season.

Williams Weekly Honors
Amaya Williams is one of five Big South freshmen to be named Big South Freshman of the Week exactly twice this season, earning the honor on Sept. 25 and Oct. 16.

She has posted two 50-assist matches this season, both in conference play, and her 59 assists against Presbyterian are the most by a Big South setter in any match this year.

Williams ranks fourth in the conference with 8.90 assists per set during Big South play.

Block Party
Liberty posted 10 blocks on Oct. 28 against Campbell, the team's ninth double-digit-block match this season. Last year, the Lady Flames tied a program record with 14 double-digit-block contests.

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 leading the conference with 2.14 blocks per set.

Middle of it All
Anna Gragg is hitting .366 while averaging 3.13 kills per set in Big South matches.

Anna Gragg reached double-figures in kills in five consecutive matches, Sept. 16 through Oct. 3. She is the first Liberty middle blocker since Kendle Rollins in 2010 with five straight 10-kill contests.

Sirena Vorster, who along with Gragg was an all-conference honorable mention middle blocker in 2016, averages 1.84 kills per set while hitting .332 in conference play.

Gabrielle Vess leads the team with nine double-doubles this season, followed by Amaya Williams' seven double-doubles.

Williams, making her first start on Aug. 26 against Virginia, registered a double-double with 36 assists and 10 digs.

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

Liberty vs. UNC Asheville (Liberty leads, 40-22) (Series Streak: Liberty W3)
UNC Asheville (12-14, 8-7 Big South) enters the week in fourth place in the Big South standings after a 3-1 win over PC on Tuesday. The Bulldogs are 6-2 at the Justice Center this season. UNC Asheville is ranked second in the Big South and 18th nationally with 1.66 aces per set.

2016 Big South All-Conference honorable mention selection Cara Guthrie ranks third in the Big South in kills per set, both overall (3.79) and in conference play (3.98). KK Haley is ranked second in the Big South with 0.47 aces per set in conference play, while Sheridan Salisbury is fourth with 0.42 aces per set.

Liberty leads UNC Asheville, 40-22, in the all-time series, including 21-11 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 14-3 in the last 17 matchups overall.

The Lady Flames overcame a 2-1 match deficit to down UNC Asheville in five sets, Sept. 30 at the Vines Center. Anna Gragg hit .400 with 18 kills, while UNC Asheville's Cara Guthrie led all players with 21 kills.

Liberty vs. Gardner-Webb (Liberty leads series, 22-2) (Series streak: Liberty W8)
Gardner-Webb (7-16, 1-9 Big South) is looking to snap a 12-match losing streak. The Runnin' Bulldogs' last win was Sept. 26, a 3-2 home victory over UNC Asheville. Gardner-Webb ranks second in the Big South with 2.12 blocks per set this season.

Keira Moore ranks second in the Big South with 1.01 blocks per set. Kaelyn Dyson is ranked ninth in the conference in hitting percentage (.274) while sitting sixth in blocks per set (0.88). Emma Milstead is listed fourth in conference rankings with 4.41 digs per set.

Liberty leads the all-time series over the Runnin' Bulldogs, 22-2, winning the first 11 meetings, before Gardner-Webb swept the Lady Flames, Oct. 11, 2011 at Paul Porter Arena. The Lady Flames have won the last eight meetings in a row, after Gardner-Webb rallied for a 3-2 win over Liberty, Oct. 4, 2013 at the Vines Center.

The Lady Flames swept Gardner-Webb, 3-0, on Oct. 27, Liberty's Senior Night. Liberty senior Gabrielle Vess had a double-double with 10 kills and 11 digs, while Anna Gragg recorded 10 kills and Margaret Latchford collected a match-high 21 digs.

Chasing History
With a 248-193 career record in his 14th year as head coach, Shane Pinder needs two more wins to become the second Big South volleyball coach all-time with 250 career wins.

Pinder is 142-60 all-time in Big South regular-season matches. He needs three more conference wins to tie former UNC Asheville and Winthrop head coach Julie Torbett for the most career conference victories among any Big South volleyball coach.

Out With a Bang
Liberty won its final match before the Big South Volleyball Championship in 19 straight seasons, from 1997 through 2015, before losing its regular-season finale to CSU last year.

Conference Tournament Picture
High Point has clinched the No. 1 seed and Big South regular-season title, while Radford will be the second seed and Campbell, third seed, due to tiebreakers over both Liberty and UNC Asheville. The final three seeds will be decided this weekend, with Liberty, UNC Asheville and Winthrop all still vying for seeds four through six.