Beach volleyball duos survive pool play, ousted in playoffs
August 4, 2018 | Long Beach, Calif.
All three of Liberty University's beach volleyball tandems entered in Saturday's National Collegiate Sand Volleyball Association (NCSVA) National Championships advanced out of their respective pools before being eliminated in the first round of tournament play.
The Flames' pair of rising seniors Kaden Knepper and Gene Dejesus had the strongest showing in their 18-team men's division, finishing 2-1 in pool play matches with their only loss to UCLA to make the 10-team gold bracket. There, Liberty was ousted by a duo from California-Polytechnic, 28-26, to take seventh place.
"The guys' side of the bracket was really strong, which was awesome," Liberty Head Coach Kaleb VanDePerre said. "Kaden and Gene played four pretty good matches. They had to win their last game in pool play to get into the gold bracket and they handled the pressure situations well."
In a back-and-forth playoff match, Liberty led 22-18 before Cal-Poly called a timeout and seized the lead. The Flames called timeout and pulled themselves into contention, but couldn't get back on top.
Had Liberty won that match, it would have had the opportunity to go up against the eventual championship team from Florida State University.
The women's bracket only featured eight teams, including two NCAA tandems — Georgia State went undefeated, beating Stetson University in the final — and six competitive club teams.
Rising junior Olivia Jensen and rising sophomore Alyssa Register finished in fifth place after going 3-3 in pool play. They lost, 21-16, in the first round of the playoffs to a UCLA team that it had defeated in pool play.
Hannah Schanz and Rachel Weaver, both rising sophomores, went 2-4 in pool play before falling in the first round of the playoffs, 21-11, to a University of North Carolina pair that Liberty had seen at other summer tournaments.
Gene Dejesus and Kaden Knepper
Before Saturday's tournament play at Long Beach, Knepper and Dejesus had a chance to train with AVP player Jeff Samuels and former Team USA Olympic gold medalist Eric Fonoimoana while the Lady Flames worked out with three-time U.S. Olympian Holly McPeak at Manhattan Beach.
"It's always incredible to be around and learn from some of the best players in the world," VanDePerre said.
Earlier in the week, the players and coach got in the competitive mindset by watching the USA High Performance 19-under championships, featuring teams from USA and Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, and Canada. Then, on Friday at Manhattan Beach, they witnessed Fonoimoana and other former professional and Olympic players compete in a Six-Man Men's Open tournament.
"That was a fun volleyball event pitting some of the best volleyball players in the world, past and present," VanDePerre said. "Both were extremely competitive."
|Olivia Jensen and Alyssa Register (left) train with three-time U.S. Olympian Holly McPeak.|