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Starting Strong

November 28, 2023


In their first semester in Conference USA, Liberty University’s NCAA Division I Athletics teams have continued their winning ways, with the women’s soccer team claiming LU’s first CUSA Championship and other teams proving themselves strong contenders for regular-season titles and postseason championships.

A total of eight men’s and eight women’s teams at Liberty are competing in the reorganized conference for the 2023-24 athletic calendar. This fall, multiple student-athletes have reaped CUSA Athlete of the Week awards, including quarterback Kaidon Salter, who was named CUSA Offensive Player of the Week after decisive wins over the University of Buffalo,  Florida International University,  Western Kentucky, and Old Dominion. Salter was also named to the Manning Award Watch List, the Davey O’Brien Award Great 8 listing (three times), and was a semifinalist for the 2023 Maxwell Award.

With their sixth win against Jacksonville State on Oct. 10, the Flames became bowl eligible. After the win over Western Kentucky  on Oct. 24, Liberty clinched its spot in the CUSA Championship Game. Liberty gave its Homecoming Weekend crowd more than just another great game to cheer about after its 56-30 CUSA win over Louisiana Tech on Nov. 4; with the victory, Liberty secured the regular season title and announced it was hosting the championship game at Williams Stadium on Dec. 1. At press time, Liberty was ranked No. 25 in the AP Top 25 for the second week and remained one of seven unbeaten teams in the country, moving to 10-0 on the year and 7-0 in CUSA play. The Flames were scheduled to face New Mexico State in the CUSA Championship.

[UPDATE: The Flames concluded their regular season with victories over UMass and UTEP on Nov. 18 and 25, completing the first undefeated regular season in Flames Football history. Following the result of the CUSA Championship on Dec. 1, Liberty will await their assignment for their fifth consecutive bowl game appearance.]

The women’s soccer team earned Liberty its first CUSA Championship trophy on Nov. 5, securing an automatic bid to the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament with a 2-1 victory over No. 1 seed New Mexico State. Liberty lost to the University of Georgia in the first round.

The men’s and women’s cross country teams each finished runner-up to Middle Tennessee State at the CUSA Championships on Oct. 28 in Bowling Green, Ky., paced by redshirt junior Adelyn Fairley, the CUSA women’s 6K individual runner-up. Fairley earned All-CUSA First Team honors.

On Jan. 6, the basketball teams will spring into action in CUSA play. Both teams will tip off their conference schedules against Western Kentucky, with the men playing in Bowling Green, Ky., and the women at Liberty Arena.

Quarterback Kaidon Salter celebrates after a touchdown.

The Flames are the preseason conference favorite, tied with Middle Tennessee State. The women are ranked second, tied with Western Kentucky, behind Middle Tennessee State.

The basketball teams attended the 2023 CUSA Basketball Tipoff and Media Day event on Oct. 16 at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala., joining CUSA Commissioner Judy MacLeod. Huntsville is also the host city for the 2024 Conference USA Men’s & Women’s Basketball Championships at Propst Arena March 12-16.

Flames fans helped cheer the men’s basketball team to a 44-4 home record during the past three seasons of competition at Liberty Arena. The men went 19-1 at home during the 2022-23 season and carried a 17-game home winning streak into the 2023-24 campaign. The Lady Flames had a 42-3 record during three seasons at Liberty Arena and took a 14-game home winning streak into the new season.

Along with Liberty, CUSA welcomed Jacksonville State, New Mexico State, and Sam Houston to its membership this year.

“Conference USA (provides) a more competitive environment for our teams,” Liberty Director of Athletics Ian McCaw said. “There are a number of sports where multiple teams will qualify for NCAA tournaments (through autobids and at-large bids), so we’re excited about that opportunity for our teams as well. We have great television partnerships with ESPN and CBS Sports, and that’s going to give us a platform to really build the Liberty brand on a national scale.”

For ticket information, visit LibertyFlames.com.

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