Liberty goes 2-2, takes fifth at 12-team Va. Tech tourney
September 28, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
A much more formidable front line from Liberty University's men's volleyball team helped boost the Flames to a fifth-place finish at Saturday's 12-team season-opening Virginia Tech Tournament, hosted by one of the favorites in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association.
Liberty swept past Richmond 25-15, 25-19 and Virginia 26-24, 25-17 in its first two matches before dropping a three-game decision to the Hokies' alumni team, 23-25, 25-23, 15-13. Virginia Tech wound up meeting its own alumni team in Saturday's championship match.
The Flames received the No. 2 seed for the six-team playoffs and faced North Carolina in the first round, when they were eliminated 25-22, 20-25, 15-10.
"We played two of the top teams in the EIVA, who are probably the two teams to beat, and we were playing as good as they were," Liberty coach Bryan Rigg said. "We looked a ton better than last year and I'm really, really excited about it. I think it's going to be our year. There was no team we played today that we felt we were overmatched."
Liberty finished tied for fifth with James Madison, as both teams had two wins, but the Flames earned higher placement based on their point differential.
"Last year, won the EIVA tournament (after Virginia Tech won the regular-season title), so we're right in the mix with some really good teams," Rigg said. "We're probably better than JMU this season and a half step behind Tech and UNC, but we're going to be hanging with them this year, which is really exciting."
One thing the Flames did exceptionally well Saturday was put up an imposing block at the net. In the three matches against Richmond, UVA, and UNC, middle hitter Sam Eisbrenner put up a team-high 12 blocks to go with his five kills, freshman outside hitter Si Herschberger contributed 12 kills, 10 blocks, nine digs, and three aces, setter Ethan Chase had 10 blocks, 13 kills, and eight digs to go with his 39 assists, and middle blocker Ryan Culkin added 12 kills and nine blocks.
Fellow graduate student, beach volleyball teammate, and right-side hitter Kevin Snyder paced the Flames in kills with 16 on the day, not counting the match against Virginia Tech's alumni team. Junior outside hitter Derek Abildness added 11 kills, six digs, and three blocks and sophomore libero Josiah Williams made a team-high 15 digs.
An area Liberty showed plenty of room for improvement in was service receive.
"Our libero, Josiah Williams had a ton of digs and he was a great passer today," Rigg said. "Everybody else struggled on service receive. We weren't handling it very well."
Chase showed promise in his new position as setter after playing right-side hitter last season.
"Ethan did very well in his setting debut," Rigg said. "His (assist) stats were pretty consistent and because he's left-handed, he also had some kills."