DI Flames men's volleyball torches Lancaster tourney field
November 17, 2018 | Lancaster, Pa.
Liberty University's Division I men's volleyball team dominated Saturday's Lancaster Bible College Invitational, with its closest match coming against Liberty's Division II team in the semifinals.
Liberty's DI squad (26-2) — whose only two losses this fall season came against an NCAA Division II opponent and a USA Volleyball club team from New York — finished 4-0 in its pool without dropping a set, destroying a Gary Martin alumni team, 25-10, 25-4, before sweeping two NCAA Division III programs — Cairn University (25-12, 25-11) and host Lancaster, 25-19, 25-20.
In the playoffs, Liberty held off the Flames' DII team — which had eliminated the DI Flames, 28-26, in last year's semifinals — by a 25-23 score, before defeating a Cairn alumni team in the championship match, 25-17, 25-12.
"They were a good team, but we got started early, got a few blocks, dug a few of their hard hits, and they hit a mental wall after that," Liberty Head Coach Bryan Rigg said.
It was the fifth year in a row the Flames have traveled to the 10-team tournament at Lancaster and the first time they have won it.
"We'd always get close to the title and let ourselves down," Rigg said. "For most part, the competition wasn't what we've seen the last few weeks, but we applied ourselves when we needed to and it was a great way to finish off our fall season."
The Flames finished 12-1-1 against NCAA opponents this fall and won three tournaments.
Senior middle hitter Gene Dejesus and freshman opposite hitter Joshua Knapp both continued to hit at around a .500 kill percentage and led Liberty in blocks while the Flames' two outside hitters — senior Brady Quakenbush and sophomore Sean Taggart — were on target with their spikes, passes, and serves. Senior setter Kaden Knepper contributed consistent sets as well as great defense with several digs to complement junior libero Daniel Koloff.
"Defensively, with Gene and Josh up front as a blocking tandem and Kaden and Daniel and Brady leading us in digs, our resiliency on defense forces teams into an uncomfortable position," Rigg said.
Liberty's DII team went 3-1 in its pool, sweeping NCAA DII Alvernia, 25-18, 25-22 and a Lancaster alumni team 25-19, 25-18, and only losing to Cairn's alumni team, 25-23, 25-18.
"(Freshman DI player) Cody Reinsma played on the DII team and really did a great job at the opposite hitter position," Rigg said. "He and (freshman outside hitter) James Morton were our leaders in kills."
The "friendly" semifinal showdown between Liberty's DI and DII teams turned into a heated battle.
"We have scrimmaged the DII team all year and they have not gotten that close," Rigg said of the 25-23 clash. "They adjusted their lineup and came out with a lot of energy. It was probably the best match of the day. They've gone to three silver bracket finals, beaten three NCAA opponents, and are poised for a great spring season in the ECVA South, all with 10 freshmen."
Former Flames DI libero and team captain Josiah Williams, who will start as Rigg's assistant coach in January, volunteered with the Division II team at Lancaster.
"He was on the bench and was actively involved with it, coaching them well, giving them good feedback, helping with the game plan," Rigg said.
Liberty will open the spring semester with its annual "Midnight Mayhem" matchup against Virginia Tech in the Vines Center a few days after the first National Collegiate Volleyball Federation (NCVF) rankings are released in late January.