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LU Volleyball to Open Spring Season Sunday

March 25, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Chelaine McCarty and the Lady Flames volleyball team is scheduled to play three spring tournaments in the next month.

Chelaine McCarty and the Lady Flames volleyball team is scheduled to play three spring tournaments in the next month.

The two-time defending Big South champion Liberty volleyball team will compete in a trio of spring tournaments, beginning with the VCU/Third Degree Sportswear Spring Fling on Sunday.

The Lady Flames' 11 returning players are also scheduled to participate in tournaments at Virginia Tech (April 11) and Virginia (April 18), to close out their spring schedule. Included on Liberty's spring roster are 2008 All-Big South performers Kallie Corbin, Chelaine McCarty and Nicki Scripko.

The last time head coach Shane Pinder's squad took the court, the Lady Flames took a set from eventual Final Four qualifier Nebraska in the first round of the NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship, on Dec. 5. Even though the Cornhuskers ended Liberty's season, the match motivated the Lady Flames' returnees as they entered the offseason.

"The Nebraska match energized our players," noted Pinder. "It proved that taking a set from California the previous year wasn't a fluke. We really can play at a high level. We just have to learn how to sustain that level of play for a longer period in those matches."

The Lady Flames have set lofty goals for the 2009 season, and are already working hard to achieve them. "I'm excited about what I have seen so far in the gym," stated Pinder. "Our team is practicing with great energy and focus. They have also been incredibly focused in the weight room. Our program has really bought into the connection between the gym and the weight room."

The biggest question marks for Pinder and his coaching staff as the spring tournament season begins are how to replace graduated seniors Jessica Nelson and Ashley Webber.

Nelson, who became only the eighth player in program history to tally 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs, leaves some big shoes to fill on the outside. Rising junior Scripko, who played outside hitter for the first part of the 2008 campaign before shifting to the right side, will have the first opportunity to replace Nelson in the lineup. Liberty's leader with 367 kills last season, Scripko was a second-team All-Big South performer.

"I like Nicki's size and presence on the outside," explained Pinder. "We need to be bigger and more physical out there."

In Webber, the Lady Flames lose their most intimidating presence at the net. The middle blocker led the Lady Flames in blocks in both 2007 and 2008. Kirstyn Sanders, who will be a redshirt junior in the fall, is the leading candidate to start at middle blocker along with McCarty at this point.

"Kirstyn has been working hard and has increased her vertical jump," Pinder noted. "She presents a physical block and can run a lot of offensive plays behind the setter."

Pinder also expects big things from Corbin, in the setter's final collegiate season. As a junior, Corbin hauled in numerous accolades, including Big South Player of the Year, Big South Championship MVP and honorable mention All-American.

"Kallie has been working tremendously hard, as she has set high goals for herself," said Pinder. "She is extremely competitive and brings it every day to practice. She leads by example, with her work ethic."

In addition to the 11 players suiting up for practice and tournaments this spring, Pinder has already inked three incoming freshmen for the 2009 season. As a result, he asserted, "I feel like this year's team will have the most depth since I have been here as head coach. We will have two strong teams to scrimmage against each other in the gym every day."

2009 Liberty Volleyball Spring Tournament Schedule
March 29 – at VCU
April 11 – at Virginia Tech
April 18 – at Virginia