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Liberty Hosts Radford in Big South Opener, Friday

September 20, 2012  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The Liberty volleyball team opens its 2012 Big South schedule on Friday, hosting Radford at the Vines Center.

The Liberty volleyball team opens its 2012 Big South schedule on Friday, hosting Radford at the Vines Center.

Complete Match Notes

Defending Big South champion Liberty returns to the Vines Center for the first time in over three weeks, hosting Radford in the Big South Conference opener on Friday at 7 p.m. The Lady Flames and Highlanders met in the 2011 Big South Volleyball Championship final match, with Liberty prevailing, 3-0. Liberty (9-4) and Radford (8-7) were predicted to finish first and second, in that order, in the Big South preseason coaches' poll.

The Lady Flames and Highlanders meet in the conference opener for the ninth time, and second year in a row, as Liberty claimed a 3-2 decision at Radford on Sept. 23, 2011.

Liberty at a Glance
The Lady Flames picked up a win at Georgetown on Tuesday, stopping a brief three-match winless streak by hitting .352 in a 3-1 victory. Caroline Douglas led Liberty with 18 kills on Tuesday, while Loren Thomas hit .700 in sending down 15 kills.

Liberty plays its first home match since Aug. 28, after spending nine matches away from the Vines Center. The Lady Flames went 6-3 during that stretch.

How to Follow the Lady Flames
Live stats and video streaming will be available for Friday's match, through links on Live stats are courtesy of Liberty's athletics communications office. Fans can view the match through live video streaming, for a small charge, through the Big South Network, with Ray Jones on play-by-play and Erin McKeown as the color analyst.

Quick Hits
- Liberty (9-4) begins its Big South title defense on Friday against Radford (8-7).
- The Lady Flames hit .352 in 3-1 win at Georgetown on Tuesday.
- Liberty is 16-5 all-time in conference openers, including 5-3 vs. Radford.
- Loren Thomas leads Big South with .340 hitting percentage, hit .700 on Tuesday.
- Friday's contest is rematch of 2011 Big South Championship final match (Liberty W, 3-0).
- The Lady Flames lead the Big South in hitting percentage and service aces.
- Liberty is on a 14-match conference home winning streak, dating to Oct. 1, 2010.
- Friday's match features last two Big South Freshmen of the Year.
-- Liberty's Jade Craycraft in 2010, and Radford's Emma Deininger in 2011.
- The Lady Flames are 14-2 in last 16 five-set matches, including 3-2 this season.
- Liberty leads all-time series, 39-25 over Radford, including 22 straight wins in series.

Hitting for Average, Power
Loren Thomas attacked at a .611 (14-3-18) clip on Saturday against Virginia Tech, and followed up with a .700 (15-1-20) hitting line at Georgetown on Tuesday night. Thomas' .700 hitting percentage was the third highest in a single match by a Lady Flame since 2001. She joins current teammate Kendle Rollins, who hit .727 last September against Citadel, and Ashley Webber, who hit .875 at Winthrop on Oct. 17, 2008.

Caroline Douglas has a pair of .500+ hitting matches this year, recording a .548 percentage versus UNCG in the season opener and hitting .538 against Elon on Aug. 25.

Block Party
The Lady Flames posted back-to-back 10+ block matches this past weekend against Virginia and Virginia Tech, and totaled nine blocks on Tuesday at Georgetown.

Freshman Monica Johnson recorded a season-high five blocks at Georgetown, while Kendle Rollins had a match-high six blocks versus the Hoyas.

So far this season, five Lady Flames have at least one five-block match in Loren Thomas (4), Rollins (4), Jade Craycraft (2), Ansley Gebben (2) and Johnson (1).

Block Party (Part 2)
The Lady Flames' 20.5 blocks on Sept. 23, 2011 at Radford set a new program rally-scoring record, breaking the old standard of 18.

Loren Thomas registered a program rally-scoring record 12 blocks, and Jade Craycraft added a career-high 10 blocks. Thomas (11 kills, 12 blocks), Craycraft (39 assists, 10 blocks) and Lille Happel (11 kills, 12 digs) all had double-doubles that night.

Last Line of Defense
Sophomore Gabrielle Shipe has led or tied for the team lead in digs in all 13 matches. She tied her career high with 22 digs in Saturday's matchup with the Virginia Cavaliers, marking her 10th 10-dig match and third 20-dig contest this season.

Lillie Happel and Becca Haraf have five 10-dig matches apiece and Jade Craycraft and Ansley Gebben have three 10-dig matches each this season.

Acing the Test
Liberty's serving game has been effective this season, as five Lady Flames have served up between 12 and 16 aces so far in 2012. Becca Haraf leads the team with 16 aces, followed by Lillie Happel and Kendle Rollins with 14 apiece. Jade Craycraft has 13 aces and Gabrielle Shipe is at 12. Ansley Gebben is nearing double digits, with nine aces.

Leading the Pack
At present, the Lady Flames sit atop the Big South statistical charts in both hitting percentage (.248) and aces per set (1.72). Liberty's aces per set rank 14th in the latest NCAA Division I statistical listing.

Loren Thomas (.340) and Caroline Douglas (.323) rank first and second in the Big South in hitting percentage. Douglas is second in the conference with 3.06 kills per set, and is the only Big South freshman, true or redshirt, to rank in the top 10 in either category.

Down to the Wire
Both of last year's regular-season meetings between Liberty and Radford ended in 3-2 Lady Flames victories. Liberty went 6-0 in five-set matches last year, with all six of those matches occurring during conference play. So far this year, the Lady Flames are 3-2 in five-set matches, and 14-2 in their last 16 contests which lasted five sets.

Big South Opener
All-time in Big South openers, Liberty is 16-5, having won the last seven conference openers and 12 out of the last 13. The most recent conference-opening setback came Sept. 25, 2004 at Birmingham-Southern.

Entering Friday, the Lady Flames have played their first conference match away from Lynchburg 15 out of their 21 seasons in the Big South. Liberty is 6-0 when the conference opener is at home, 9-4 away, and 1-1 in neutral-site league lid-lifters.

Liberty vs. Radford
All-Time Series:
Liberty leads, 39-25
Current Series Streak: Liberty W22
Last Meeting: Liberty 3, Radford 0 (Nov. 20, 2011 - Charleston, S.C. - Big South Final)
Radford Head Coach: Marci Jenkins (2011 Big South Coach of the Year)
Coaching Record at Radford: 57-83 (5th Year)

Liberty Head Coach: Shane Pinder (2011 VaSID State Coach of the Year)
Coaching Record: 158-117 (9th Year)

Radford brings an 8-7 record into conference play, alternating wins and losses over its last eight matches. The Highlanders' defense has been strong, ranking first in the Big South in opponents' hitting percentage (.157) and digs per set (17.02).

Middle blocker Emma Deininger, the 2011 Big South Freshman of the Year, ranks fifth in the Big South with a .297 attack percentage. Katelyn Meeks was named Big South Defensive Player of the Week on Monday, and averages 4.70 digs per set. Rachel Wiechecki paces Radford with 3.05 kills per set and 14 aces. Jena Braden and Christine Beckham split the setting duties, as Braden leads the Highlanders with 5.20 assists per set.

Series History
Liberty holds a 39-25 overall record against Radford in volleyball, and the Lady Flames have won each of the last 22 meetings with the Highlanders. Radford's most recent win over Liberty in volleyball came Nov. 6, 2001, a 3-2 Highlanders victory in the Vines Center.

The Lady Flames and Highlanders have met in the Big South Championship final on three occasions, with Liberty downing Radford for the title in 1999, 2001 and 2011.

Liberty vs. Radford - 2011
The first two meetings between Liberty and Radford last season, Sept. 23 and Oct. 28, both resulted in 3-2 victories for the Lady Flames. Then, on Nov. 20 in Charleston, S.C., the Lady Flames swept Radford for their conference-record sixth Big South championship.

On Sept. 23, Liberty posted a program rally-scoring-record 20.5 team blocks in a 3-2 conference-opening win over the Highlanders at the Dedmon Center.

The Lady Flames overcame a 2-0 match deficit to down Radford on Oct. 28 at the Vines Center, its fourth of six 3-2 wins last season.

Home Sweet Home
Opponents face a tough task when entering the Vines Center, as Liberty volleyball has gone 48-8 (.855) at home over the past five seasons. In total, the Lady Flames are 63-23 in home matches under ninth-year head coach Shane Pinder.

Liberty is 34-3 in Big South regular-season home matches dating back to the 2007 season.

The Lady Flames currently hold a 14-match conference home winning streak, last falling at home to a Big South team on Oct. 1, 2010 against Winthrop. The longest conference home winning streak in program history was 18 matches, lasting from Oct. 15, 1996 through Nov. 9, 1999.