ROCK HILL, SC – The Winthrop volleyball team returns to the Winthrop Coliseum for the first time in nearly a month this weekend to host the Radford Highlanders and the Liberty Flames.
The Eagles enter the weekend with a 2-5 conference mark after falling to High Point and Campbell last weekend. Winthrop sports an 11-10 overall record. The return to the Winthrop Coliseum should be a positive one for the Eagles as they are 7-2 at home this season.
Irene Ojukwu’s 250 kills and 3.29 kills per set average leads the Eagles and ranks her fourth in the Big South. Alina Sopizhuk follows closely with 247 kills and a 3.07 per set average, ranking seventh in the conference. Rachel Lenz continues to be ranked in the top 10 in hitting percentage as she currently has a .298 average. Jessie Vicic continues to lead the conference in assists per set with 11.37, but slipped to 19th in Division I.
As a team the Eagles lead the Big South in assists per set with 12.26 and also in kills per set with 13.09. Winthrop’s .197 team hitting percentage ranks them fourth in the conference.
Radford enters the Winthrop Coliseum Friday evening for a 7 p.m. contest. The Highlanders currently sit atop the Big South standings with a 5-2 conference record and a 16-8 overall mark. Last weekend the Highlanders split two matches, downing Charleston Southern after falling to Coastal Carolina.
Friday’s contest will pit two of the top hitting teams in the Big South. Radford ranks second in the Big South with 12.89 kills per set, just behind the Eagles. The Highlanders rank first in the conference in hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage and blocks.
Rachel Wiechecki leads the Highlanders and is second in the conference with 316 total kills and a 3.43 kill per set average. Jena Braden is the team’s primary setter, averaging eight assists per set. Emma Deininger is tied for the Big South lead with 1.04 blocks per set.
Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. the Eagles will entertain the Liberty Flames. The Flames will face Presbyterian Friday evening and enter the weekend with a 4-3 conference record and a 5-15 overall mark. Liberty has won four of its last five conference matches and swept Coastal Carolina and Charleston Southern last weekend in Lynchburg. Liberty has struggled on the road this season, with a 1-7 record to date away from home.
Lillie Happel leads the team and is sixth in the Big South, averaging 3.07 kills per set this season. Jade Craycraft is the primary setter for the Flames, averaging just over eight assists per set.
The 2012 Big South Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, Caroline Douglas, missed all but one of Liberty’s first 19 matches due to injury. She returned to the court Saturday against Coastal Carolina and posted a match-high 11 kills for the Flames.
Winthrop’s home stand will be short-lived as following the two weekend matches, the Eagles will head back on the road for contests against Charleston Southern and Coastal Carolina next Saturday and Sunday.