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Liberty Set for First Meeting with California

November 28, 2007  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The Liberty volleyball team celebrates its first Big South Championship since 2001.

The Liberty volleyball team celebrates its first Big South Championship since 2001.

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The Match

The Liberty Lady Flames (27-8, 11-1 Big South) will be making their first NCAA Division I Volleyball Tournament appearance since 2001. Their first-round opponent will be California (22-7, 12-6 Pac-10), seeded No. 10 nationally. Match time is set for 5 p.m. on Nov. 30, at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. Liberty and California have never met in volleyball.

The Last Time Out
Liberty set a program NCAA Division I record with its 27th win of the season by defeating Big East foe Georgetown, 3-1 (30-28, 30-13, 29-31, 30-17), Nov. 23 at the VCU Thanksgiving Tournament. Setter Kallie Corbin (nine kills, 58 assists, 24 digs) fell a single kill shy of her third triple-double of the season. Outside hitter Jessica Nelson paced all players in both kills (19) and digs (26) and notched her 19th double-double of the season.

How They Got Here
Liberty earned the Big South Conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division I Tourament by winning the Big South Volleyball Championship. The Lady Flames swept five-time defending champion Winthrop, 3-0 (30-17, 30-23, 32-30) in the title match, Nov. 17 at Liberty's Vines Center. Liberty has won 17 of its last 18 matches, 15 of which have been 3-0 sweeps.

California, ranked No. 7 in the CSTV/AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll, finished fourth in the Pac-10 Conference standings. The Golden Bears, making their sixth-straight tournament appearance, garnered an at-large berth into the 64-team field.

Scouting California The California Golden Bears matched their best-ever Pac-10 record, finishing 12-6 in a conference which features six of the nation's top 13 teams. Cal closed the season by winning 12 of its last 15 matches, including a 3-2 road victory over then No. 7 UCLA. California is making its 11th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance and their sixth in a row. The Golden Bears have won their first-round match six-consecutive times and twice advanced to the round of 16 (2003, 2006).

Cal's roster features two seniors, both of whom play prominent roles for the Golden Bears. Angie Pressey, a 5-8 outside hitter, ranks second on the team with 378 kills and is third in program history with 1,613 kills. Pressey was an AVCA second-team All-American in 2006. Ellen Orchard, a 6-3 middle hitter, paces California with 168 blocks. Her efforts have helped Cal average 3.70 blocks per game, a figure which leads the Pac-10. For her career, Orchard has posted a school-record 474 blocks.

Hana Cutura, a 6-3 sophomore outside hitter from Croatia, tops California with 392 kills. She put down a career-best 29 kills in a season-ending 3-2 loss at Stanford on Nov. 23. Stanford is the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Division I Volleyball Tournament.

Fellow sophomore Kristen Kathan, a 5-6 libero, spearheads Cal's defensive efforts. She has tallied a team-best 360 digs on the season and has reached double figures in digs in 14-straight matches.

The Golden Bears' setter is a freshman, 5-11 Carli Lloyd. She averages 12.61 assists per game and contributed a season-high 69 assists at No. 6 USC on Oct. 26.

The Coaching Matchup
Shane Pinder is 59-67 in his fourth season as Liberty's head coach. He was named 2007 Big South Coach of the Year and led the Lady Flames to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2001. Pinder was an assistant coach for the 1999 and 2001 Liberty teams which qualified for the NCAA Tournament.

Rich Feller owns a record of 161-107 in his nine seasons at California. In 2003, he was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year after guiding the Golden Bears to the NCAA round of 16 for the first time in program history. His career record stands at 460-274 and also includes 14 years (1983-96) as Colorado State's head coach.

Liberty Versus the Pac-10 Conference
Friday's match versus California will be just the third time Liberty has faced an opponent from the Pac-10 Conference. Liberty met Pac-10 foe USC in its most recent trip to the NCAA Tournament, on Nov. 30, 2001. The Trojans ousted the Lady Flames, 3-0, in a match played in Durham, N.C. Last season, Liberty met Washington on Sept. 1, at the Davidson Mizuno Wildcat Classic. The Huskies prevailed by a 3-0 score.

Liberty in the NCAA Tournament
Liberty has made three previous trips to the NCAA Division I Tournament, in 1997, 1999 and 2001.

1997: In the Lady Flames' first postseason appearance, they lost 3-0 to Notre Dame, on Dec. 5, 1997 in Fayetteville, Ark.

1999: Two years later, Liberty fell by a 3-0 count to Florida, on Dec. 2, 1999 in Gainesville, Fla.

2001: The Lady Flames' NCAA opponent on Nov. 30, 2001 was USC, and Liberty dropped a 3-0 decision to the Trojans in Durham, N.C. Current assistant coaches Jennifer (Belk) Vaden and Becky Rudnick were freshmen for the 2001 Lady Flames.

Finishing with a Bang
The Lady Flames have won 17 of their last 18 matches, 15 of which have been 3-0 victories. The run includes a program-record 16-match winning streak. Liberty finished 10-0 in October and did not lose a single game during the month.

Streak Busters
Liberty has halted several lengthy winning streaks during the 2007 season. These include the following.

East Tennessee State's 13-match home winning streak (Oct. 15)
High Point's 10-match winning streak (Oct. 26)
Winthrop's 63-match Big South winning streak and 12-match overall streak (Oct. 27)
Winthrop's 17-match Big South Championship winning streak (Nov. 17)

Liberty Versus the 2007 NCAA Tournament Field
Liberty has faced two teams which are a part of the 2007 NCAA Tournament this season, Long Island and Princeton. The Blackbirds and Tigers are actually a part of the same four-team grouping at St. John's this weekend.

The Lady Flames swept Princeton, 3-0, on Sept. 14 at the Villanova Classic. Since the contest, the Tigers have won 20-consecutive matches and captured the Ivy League title.

Liberty was swept by Long Island, 3-0, on Nov. 23 at the VCU Thanksgiving Tournament. The match marked the only time the Lady Flames have been swept all season.

Lady Flames in the National Statistical Rankings
Liberty ranks in the top 30 of the nation in two team statistical categories. The Lady Flames are eighth nationally with 19.98 digs per game. Liberty sits 29th in kills, with 16.4 kills per game.

Individually, sophomore Kallie Corbin ranks 30th in assists, with 12.78 assists per game. She is eight spots ahead of California setter Carli Lloyd on the list.

Most Wins as a NCAA Division I Program
The Lady Flames have won 27 matches this season, setting a program record for most victories as a Division I team. The 1997 Liberty squad, which became the first Lady Flame unit to make the NCAA Tournament, held the previous mark. They finished the year 26-9.

Record-Setting Crowds
The two largest volleyball crowds in Big South Conference history cheered the Lady Flames on to a pair of important victories this season.

Liberty swept Winthrop on Oct. 27, in front of 1,583 fans at the Vines Center, setting a new conference record.

Two weeks later, on Nov. 10, Liberty swept Radford on Senior Night. The match was attended by 1,622 fans, establishing another new conference standard.

In total, 6,544 fans attended Liberty's 15 home matches this season, good for a Big South-leading average of 436 fans per contest.

The crowd support helped propel the Lady Flames to a 13-2 home record. Liberty won its last 11-consecutive home matches, the team's longest home winning streak since a 14-game skein, spanning the 1998 and 1999 campaigns.