Men's, women's duos make debuts in Florida tournaments
April 27, 2014 | Siesta Key, Fla.
Liberty University's men's beach volleyball duo of Ryan Culkin and David Hong reached the finals of the Division A men's bracket while Alysha Clayton teamed up with first-year Head Coach Rachel Willis and advanced to the second round of the Division A women's playoffs at Saturday's open tournament in Siesta Key, Fla.
A total of four Liberty men's pairs and four women's tandems competed in windy conditions in the event that featured approximately 100 teams and attracted large crowds to one of the top-rated beaches in America.
|Ryan Culkin (right) and David Hong placed second in the Division A bracket of Saturday's open tournament in Siesta Key, Fla.|
Culkin, a graduate student, and Hong, a junior, who both played on Liberty's men's indoor team this season, went 3-1 to place second in their pool and finished 5-2 overall in the third-highest level of competition behind Open and Division AA.
Willis and Clayton, a sophomore whose playing partner was not able to make the trip, went 5-3 in pool play before defeating Lady Flames sophomore Abigail Bone and freshman Brittany Tyree in the first round of playoffs and being eliminated in the second round.
"We saw some decent competition and then we faced some really good competition," Willis said, noting many of the opposing teams were composed of year-round beach players from Florida. "Several of us played people who had played professionally indoor in Europe and were moving into the beach game."
"They didn't make it out of their pool or win any games, but they played well and had strong showings," Willis said. "It was really, really good competition and I think they learned a lot about how to get better and how to win."
Matthews and Craycraft lost a 21-19 decision to an open tournament team that featured a USA National professional player.
All eight Liberty teams also competed in Sunday's Florida Gulf Coast Championships, a National Collegiate Sand Volleyball Association (NCSVA) Regional Tournament. The Flames' four men's duos each had the chance to challenge the winning pair from Saturday's open event, AVP Tour players enrolled at Webber International (Fla.) University.
The qualifier for the July 24 NCSVA Collegiate Championships in Long Beach, Calif., drew only seven entries on the men's side and six in the women's division, where Horne and Johnson placed third to lead the Lady Flames.
Liberty will host a men's and women's open tournament this Saturday at 9 a.m. on its beach courts beyond the new intramural fields below the Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre. Then on May 24, the Flames will invite other collegiate teams to an NCSVA Regional Qualifier also held at Liberty.