Liberty's Jade Craycraft, Kelly Haseman and Loren Thomas earned mention on the 2011 Preseason All-Big South Team. The Lady Flames have been predicted to finish first in the Big South this season.
Liberty has been predicted to finish first in the annual Big South Conference preseason volleyball poll, as voted by the league's head coaches. Additionally, three Lady Flames have been named to the Preseason all-Big South Team. Lady Flames senior libero/defensive specialist Kelly Haseman, along with junior middle blocker Loren Thomas and sophomore setter Jade Craycraft, were chosen to the Preseason All-Big South Team. Winthrop's Becca Toor was tabbed Big South Preseason Player of the Year, edging out Cindi Miller of UNC Asheville for the top preseason honor. Liberty has been voted the preseason favorite for the seventh time. The Lady Flames, under the direction of eighth-year head coach Shane Pinder, return a majority of their players from last year's 25-9 team which won their fourth-straight Big South regular season title with a 14-2 conference mark. The team has qualified for each of the last four Big South Championship finals, with wins in 2007 and 2008 serving as its most recent championships. Last year's Big South tournament champion, High Point, came in second in the preseason voting, followed by Coastal Carolina, Winthrop and Campbell in the top five. Charleston Southern and UNC Asheville tied for sixth. Presbyterian College, Radford and Gardner-Webb rounded out the rankings. This marks the third time that one school has had three players on the preseason all-conference team since its inception in 2006. Winthrop earned three preseason all-Big South mentions in 2006, while the Lady Flames had three honorees in 2009 and again this season. Haseman, a 2010 Big South All-Conference and VaSID All-State second team member, returns for her fourth season as Liberty's starting libero. She led the Big South and finished 32nd in the nation with 5.12 digs per set as a junior, posting a Liberty rally-scoring-record 653 digs last season. She is currently in fifth place all-time at Liberty with 1,520 career digs. Haseman was named Big South Defensive Player of the Week a record four times during the 2010 campaign. Thomas continued to be a dominant presence at the net as a sophomore in 2010, being named to the Big South All-Conference Second Team. She led the team and ranked fourth in the Big South with a .309 attack percentage, hitting .360 during the conference season. Thomas led the team with 19 solo blocks while placing second with a career-high 86 block assists and 105 total blocks. She recorded at least one block in every match, including seven five-block contests. Craycraft fashioned a standout freshman campaign in 2010, becoming the only conference freshman named to the All-Big South team. She also was tabbed to the Big South All-Tournament team and earned VaSID All-State second team mention. Craycraft showed her versatility, posting her first career triple-double during the conference semifinal match at Winthrop. She also was the only Big South player with 1,000 assists, 200 digs, 100 kills, 60 blocks, and 40 assists last season. The Lady Flames open their season Aug. 26 against Georgia at the Bulldog Invitational, held in Athens, Ga. Big South play begins Sept. 23, with Liberty traveling to Radford to take on the Highlanders. The 2011 Big South Volleyball Championship will take place at CSU Fieldhouse, on the campus of Charleston Southern. The tournament, restructured into a four-day event scheduled for Nov. 17-20, will determine the Big South's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship. 2011 Big South conference Preseason Volleyball Poll Total Points (first-place votes) 1. Liberty 99 (9) 2. High Point 81 3. Coastal Carolina 78 (1) 4. Winthrop 70 5. Campbell 53 6. Charleston Southern 45 UNC Asheville 45 8. Presbyterian College 36 9. Radford 24 10. Gardner-Webb 18 2011 Preseason All-Big South Team Becca Toor, Winthrop* Cindi Miller, UNC Asheville Jade Craycraft, Liberty Kelly Haseman, Liberty Loren Thomas, Liberty Michelle Chakirelis, High Point Meghan Laffin, Coastal Carolina Presley Mabry, Presbyterian College *Big South Preseason Player of the Year
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