Men's Ultimate set for 16-team opening tourney at NC State
October 11, 2017 | Lynchburg, Va.
Liberty University's men's Ultimate team will be the only representative from the Virginia Conference at this Saturday's and Sunday's first tournament of the semester, the 16-team Fall Brawl at North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C.
"There will be mostly North Carolina teams there, including host NC State, UNC Chapel Hill, and UNC Wilmington, which are all top-15-ranked teams in the country," Flames Head Coach Brendan Phillips said, noting that Clemson and South Carolina will also be in the field.
The Flames feature about an even split of 16 new and 13 returning players. Phillips entered two 14-man teams with a balance of newcomers and veterans into a four-team round-robin on the Liberty Mountain Intramural Complex on Sept. 23, when they split scrimmages against Richmond and swept a Liberty alumni team, the Lynchburg Legion. The defending Division III national champion Spiders are ranked in the top 30 in preseason USA Ultimate combined rankings, which include Division I, II, and III teams.
"That gave us an opportunity to get playing time for the new guys and gave us a good gauge and idea of where we need to be focusing our energies moving forward," Phillips said.
Some of the Flames' top returning players include their two team captains — junior Austin Heston, one of their top cutters on offense and senior Luke Byron, their primary handler on offense who will work with freshman Ben Reutener.
Sophomore Zach Milligan is one of Liberty's top defensive line handlers along with graduate newcomer Jonny King, who played his three-year undergraduate career at Georgia State. Other top returning players are sophomore Josh Sumpter and Drew Pettit on defense.
Newcomers include four freshmen who played all four years in high school — Jake Norman, Daniel Mills, who played on a Youth National Championship team based in Raleigh, Sam Petersen, and Pete Curran, who will play a key roles on the offensive line.
"All four played at the highest level you can play in Youth Ultimate and should be immediate impact players," Phillips said. "With our incoming freshmen, we have a lot of depth both handler-wise and cutting-wise, so we're in a really good spot on offense. We have a lot of height, we are quick, and we can jump, so I'm really excited about what they can do athletically on the field."
Liberty will host its final tournament of the Fall semester on Dec. 2-3, a 10-team event with wide regional representation — including Old Dominion (Va.), Georgetown (Washington, D.C.), Ohio, Elon (N.C.), Tennessee-Knoxville, and Towson (Md.).