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Liberty to Open Big South Volleyball Championship Against No. 4 Seed UNC Asheville, Friday

November 16, 2017  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty to Open Big South Volleyball Championship Against No. 4 Seed UNC Asheville, Friday

Tournament Notes

Tournament Central Page

No. 5 seed Liberty (11-18, 8-8 Big South) will open the 2017 Big South Volleyball Championship against fourth-seeded UNC Asheville (13-14, 9-7), Friday at 4:30 p.m. at the Dedmon Center in Radford, Va. The winner will face No. 1 seed, defending tournament champion High Point (23-6, 16-0), Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 2 seed Radford (23-4, 13-3) awaits the winner of Friday's quarterfinal between No. 3 seed Campbell (20-10, 10-6) and No. 6 seed Winthrop (17-13, 8-8). The championship match will take place at 4 p.m., Sunday, with the winner advancing to the 2017 NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship.

Lady Flames at a Glance
After leading the Big South with 2.45 blocks per set last year, Liberty is once again at the top of the conference in blocks, at 2.14 per set. Liberty turned it up offensively in conference play this year. After hitting .159 during non-conference matches, the Lady Flames hit .213 against Big South teams.

For the first time in program history, Liberty won three straight matches by 3-2 scores, Sept. 23 through Oct. 3, picking up three straight conference wins. The Lady Flames went 4-2 in Big South five-set matches this year.

Tournament Quick Points
Liberty is 36-19 all-time in Big South tournament matches, holding the conference record for tournament victories (36), tournament titles (7) and finals appearances (12).

Liberty won conference tournament titles in 1997, ‘99, 2001, ‘07, ‘08, ‘11 and ‘12.

The Lady Flames made finals appearances each year from 2007-12.

Liberty is the No. 5 seed for the fourth time, and first since 2004. All three previous times, the fifth-seeded Lady Flames qualified for the conference semifinal.

The Lady Flames will look for its first postseason match win since the 2013 quarterfinals, and are seeking their first tournament championship since 2012.

Liberty Volleyball By the Numbers
1    For the second year in a row, Liberty leads the Big South in blocks per set (2.14). The Lady Flames have posted 11 10-block matches this season.

2    Twice this season, on Sept. 2 against Elon and Nov. 11 at Gardner-Webb, both Margaret Latchford and Gabrielle Vess registered 20 or more digs.

3    Freshman Amaya Williams has posted three 50-assist matches this season, and her 59 assists against PC on Sept. 23 are the most by any Big South setter this year.

3a On Sept. 23 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.

3b Last Saturday, Hannah Morris dished out a season-high 32 assists. Morris, Amaya Williams and Anna Willey give Liberty three different players with at least one 30-assist match in the same season for the first time in the rally-scoring era.

4    Shane Pinder has coached Liberty to four Big South tournament titles (2007, 2008, 2011, 2012). His next title will tie Winthrop's Joel McCartney (2001-05) for the most Big South volleyball championships won by a single head coach in conference history.

5    Liberty enters the Big South Volleyball Championship as the No. 5 seed for the fourth time in program history. The Lady Flames made the semifinal each of the first three times they served as the fifth seed.

5a  Liberty is 4-2 in five-set matches in conference play this season. Liberty's current senior class is 13-5 in Big South regular-season matches that last five sets.

5b Amaya Williams is one of five Big South players to be named Big South Freshman of the Week exactly twice this season.

6    Six current Lady Flames (Anna Willey, Gabrielle Vess, Anna Gragg, Casey Goodwin, Sirena Vorster, Margaret Latchford) started for Liberty during the 2016 Big South semifinal against High Point.   

7    Liberty has won a conference-record seven Big South tournament championships, with the seventh coming in 2012, a 3-1 win over Coastal Carolina.

8    Anna Willey ranks eighth in program history with 2,505 career assists.

9    The Lady Flames have had nine Big South Tournament MVPs, in Laura Miller (1992), Ashley Fletcher (1997), Anthonia Akpama (1999), Rachel Harnack (2001), Erin McKeown (2002), Kallie Corbin (2007-08), Loren Thomas (2011) and Jade Craycraft (2012).

9a Junior Margaret Latchford is ranked ninth in program history with 1,326 career digs. On Sept. 12 against VCU, she became the 20th Lady Flame all-time to reach 1,000 digs.

10  Senior Sirena Vorster ranks 10th in program history with 307 career blocks, entering the top 10, last Thursday at UNC Asheville.

10a Casey Goodwin scored 10 kills during set three on Oct. 20 at Winthrop. She is the first Liberty player since Caroline Douglas against UNC Asheville in 2012 to score 10 kills in one set. 

26  Anna Gragg's 26 kills on Nov. 3 at PC are tied for the most by a Liberty sophomore with Nicki Scripko, who sent down 26 kills against High Point, Oct. 14, 2008.

Lady Flames Earn Postseason Honors
Liberty received four Big South postseason honors on Wednesday. Sophomore middle blocker Anna Gragg was named to the Big South All-Conference first team, while sophomore outside hitter Casey Goodwin was tabbed to the second team. Freshman setter Amaya Williams was voted to the All-Freshman team, while senior setter Anna Willey received All-Academic team mention.

This is the 12th season in a row that Liberty has placed at least one player on the Big South All-Conference first team. Gragg is the first Liberty player to be named all-conference as both a freshman and sophomore since Jade Craycraft in 2010 and 2011. Williams is the first Liberty setter since Craycraft in 2010 to be named to the All-Freshman team.

Family Footsteps
Senior Sirena Vorster played her first two seasons at Liberty (2014-15) with her older sister, Jade Vorster. The elder Vorster was a four-time all-conference player, including twice at Hawai'i. Jade Vorster holds Liberty's rally-scoring single-season record for attack percentage (.358 in 2015) and solo blocks (32 in 2014).

Sophomore Hannah Morris joined the roster last season, after her older sister, Rachel Morris, served as a backup setter for the Lady Flames in 2014 and 2015.

Liberty vs. UNC Asheville (Liberty leads, 40-23) (Series Streak: UNC Asheville W1)
Liberty leads UNC Asheville, 40-23, in the all-time series, including 21-12 under Shane Pinder. These two teams have split the season series in three out of the last four seasons. Liberty is 14-4 in the last 18 matchups overall.

The Lady Flames defeated UNC Asheville in five sets, Sept. 30 at the Vines Center. The Bulldogs then downed Liberty, 3-1, last Thursday at the Justice Center.

Liberty is 7-3 all-time against UNC Asheville in Big South Volleyball Championship play, winning the last three conference tournament meetings in a row.     

2016 Championship Recap
Liberty hosted the 2016 Big South Volleyball Championship, falling in a tight, 3-2 match to eventual champion High Point in the semifinals. Liberty's Leah Clayton scored 26 kills, the most by a Lady Flame in a conference tournament match under the 25-point scoring system. Molly Livingston led High Point with 17 kills.

Liberty has fallen in five sets in three out of its last four appearances at the Big South Championship, (Radford in 2013, 2015; High Point in 2016).

Chasing History
With a 249-193 record in his 14th year as head coach, Shane Pinder, the winningest head coach in program history, needs one more win to become the second Big South volleyball coach all-time with 250 career wins.

Pinder is 143-62 all-time in Big South regular-season matches. He needs two 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 20 out of the last 21 seasons, and 19 in a row, from 1997 through 2015.

Symmetrical Schedule = .500
Liberty bookended the conference schedule with a loss to No. 1 seed High Point, Sept. 19 and a win over ninth-place Gardner-Webb, Nov. 11. In between, the Lady Flames' results showed perfect symmetry: a three-match winning streak followed by a three-match losing streak left the team at 3-4. Liberty then went on a four-match winning streak, followed immediately by four straight losses.

Big Matches
On Nov. 3 at Presbyterian, Anna Gragg scored a career-high 26 kills at a .524 pace. Her 26 kills were the most by a Liberty middle blocker in any match in rally-scoring history and the most by a Liberty player in a four-set match under the 25-point scoring system.

Last Thursday at UNC Asheville, Casey Goodwin sent down a career-high 23 kills while hitting .442.

Gabrielle Vess then recorded 17 kills, 20 digs and six blocks in Liberty's regular-season finale, Saturday at Gardner-Webb. Margaret Latchford collected a match-high 28 digs, while Victoria Baptista collected a career-high 19 digs. Vess is the first Liberty player since Kendall Nichols, Oct. 7, 2005 at Charleston Southern, to record 17 kills, 20 digs and six blocks in the same match.