Athletics

Feeling the Warmth: Memories from the Furnace

September 24, 2020

Since 1990, fans have helped turn up the heat in the Vines Center, fondly called “The Furnace,” cheering on the Flames and Lady Flames basketball teams and women’s volleyball team. The teams will move into their new home, the Liberty Arena, later this fall. Here are some memorable moments inside the iconic silver dome.


March 1, 1996 –The men’s basketball team took on UNC Asheville in the semifinals of the Big South Conference Tournament held at the Vines Center. Dr. Jerry Falwell, one of Liberty’s biggest sports fans, was often seen crowd surfing in the student section.


March 1, 1997 – After finishing the previous season with a 5-22 record, Liberty women’s basketball completed a historic turnaround by upsetting No. 1 seed UNC Greensboro, 89-82, in the Big South Championships title game. The win gave the Lady Flames their first of 17 Big South Championships and first of 17 trips to the NCAA Tournament.


Feb. 28, 1998 – The Lady Flames basketball team captured the program’s second Big South Conference title and pushed Liberty’s record to 28-0 following a win over No. 2 seed UNC-Asheville. The win propelled the Lady Flames into the NCAA Tournament where they faced eventual national champion and No. 1 seed Tennessee in the first-ever matchup between two undefeated teams in NCAA Tournament history.


Nov. 17, 2001 – No. 3 seed Liberty women’s volleyball team swept No. 1 seed Radford in the title match of the Big South Volleyball Championships. The upset victory gave Liberty its third Big South title and sent the Lady Flames to the NCAA Tournament for the third time in program history.


Nov. 26, 2002 – The Lady Flames basketball team handed No. 23 Virginia a 77-69 loss after LU’s Kristal Tharp hit a three-pointer from the corner as time expired. The overtime defeat of the Cavaliers was the Lady Flames’ first-ever win over a Top 25 team.


March 6, 2004  The top-seeded Liberty men’s basketball team dominated No. 2 seed High Point to capture the program’s second Big South Conference title. Liberty played the game in front of 8,515 fans who stormed the court following the convincing 89-44 victory. 


March 12, 2005 – The Lady Flames routed UNC Asheville, 88-41, for the largest margin of victory in Big South Women’s Basketball title game history. The win put the women’s team into the NCAA Tournament where it advanced to the Sweet 16 round on wins over Penn State and DePaul.


Nov. 17, 2007 – Hosting the Big South Volleyball Championships for the second time in program history, No. 1 seed Liberty made the most of its home-court advantage, sweeping No. 2 seed Winthrop, 3-0, to secure the program’s fourth of seven Big South titles.


Nov. 17, 2009 – Hosting a game as part of ESPN’s 24-hour coverage of college basketball to open the 2009-10 season, the Flames welcomed No. 22 Clemson.


March 28, 2018 – Following home wins over North Carolina A&T and Central Michigan, Liberty men’s basketball hosted the “Battle of the Flames” when the University of Illinois – Chicago came to the Vines Center for the semifinals of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. The contest between the only two NCAA Division I teams who have the nickname of the “Flames” finished off LU’s back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in program history.


Dec. 8, 2019 – Women’s volleyball played the team’s last game at the Vines Center defeating High Point University 3-1 in the second round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship tournament.


MARCH 8, 2020 – Men’s basketball defeated Lipscomb 73-57 in front of an ASUN Championship record crowd of 7,728 fans in the final game at the Vines Center. The win made the Flames back-to-back ASUN champions in their first two years in the conference. The team finished its time in the Vines Center on a 22-game home winning streak.


 

ALUMNI REFLECTIONS

“I think the facility in itself is a testament to what Dr. Falwell desired to see happen with athletics. Back in the early years, where we had no facilities, and then to the Vines Center and now anticipating the new facility, it’s exciting. It’s just neat to watch the progress and the development of the program.”
— Dan Manley
First men’s basketball coach (1972-77)

“Our first Big South Championship, we were the underdog. We were the sixth seed facing UNC Greensboro who had beaten us twice. We were behind the whole game but made a comeback in the end and beat them. The fans rushed the floor. Dr. Falwell was on the floor. It is an amazing memory!”
— Sarah (Wilkerson) Erps
Women’s basketball (1996-2000)

“The best memories by far are looking into the stands and seeing Dr. Falwell cheering us on. To see his vision become a reality and to know I had a small part in it is one of my greatest joys.”
— Erin (McKeown) Hagen
Women’s volleyball (2000-04)

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