Four Flames duos reach finals at Virginia Beach tourney
July 14, 2014 | Virginia Beach, Va.
Competing in its final tournament of the season, Liberty University's beach volleyball team experienced tremendous success Saturday and Sunday in Virginia Beach, winning two divisions (men's and coed) for the first time in the two-year history of the club. All seven of the Flames' entries competed in the second highest division behind the open draw.
"It was a good day for Lynchburg and for Liberty," Flames Head Coach Rachel Willis said, noting the six men's and women's tandems improved on their showings from a similar event held June 7-8. "I was really proud of them. Overall, we had a much more consistent showing across the board. We just played very well. I'm so pleased to end our season on a tournament like this."
Seniors Ethan Chase and Kaleb Van de Perre, who had never paired up as playing partners, finished first out of 13 teams in the men's tournament. They defeated Flames teammates Kevin Snyder and David Hong in the final after Snyder and Hong upset Liberty's fifth-place tandem of Mike Morrison and Aaron Brooks in the quarterfinals. Snyder and Hong reached the final by defeating a team that Hong and Ryan Culkin had lost to in the semifinals of last month's event.
Willis said the combination of tall, powerful spikers and scrappy liberos on each of the men's finalist teams worked well together.
"The things that make those two teams work well together is Kevin and Ethan are big guys with excellent reach who can really get up and put up a good block and smack balls down," Willis said. "Both David and Kaleb are quick and get a lot up in the back row. They're small guys running down balls like crazy and that's what they did."
The women's bracket also featured an all-Liberty final, though the winners were the alumna tandem of Lara Bartolomeo and Jessica Nelson. The former Lady Flames indoor volleyball teammates of Willis swept past Liberty's freshmen duo of Jules Johnson and Morgan Horne to capture the title decisively.
The senior team of Kara Matthews and Morgan Jones, who won their five-team pool by going 4-0, placed third at 6-1 after losing to Johnson and Horne, 26-24, 21-17, in the semifinals. Johnson and Horne finished 6-2 overall after taking second in their pool.
Most of the rest of the 10 teams in the women's division were college-age girls looking to play Division I sand volleyball as well as local players from Virginia Beach.
"They were complimenting our girls teams, talking about how much better they were doing (since June)," Willis said. "We were hitting really well, making our cut shots, and generating lots of spikes."
She said both female tandems found ways to battle through the elements and competition to win games decided by 25-23 or 26-24 scores.
"Most of all, our girls really learned how to win, how to take our defensive plays and turn them into points," Willis said. "Last time, a lot of the games we lost were 21-19. This time, both teams came back and won those games that were really close."
Morrison and Brooks will play for Liberty's men's team and Johnson and Horne will represent the Lady Flames at the July 24 National Collegiate Sand Volleyball Association (NCSVA) national championships in Long Beach, Calif.
On Sunday, Brooks joined Horne to capture first place in the co-ed division of the Virginia Beach tournament, after placing second in the field last month.