Flames win pool, reach Gold bracket of Hoosier-Illini Classic
February 24, 2018 | Bloomington, Ind.
For the first time in its history, Liberty University's NCVF Division I men's volleyball team advanced to the Gold bracket of the 17th annual Hoosier-Illini Classic, hosted by Indiana University, after Saturday's pool play. The Flames (8-3) swept all four games of their pool to earn one of four top seeds for Sunday's playoffs. The 20-team tournament features 13 teams ranked in the season's first NCVF Division I poll.
"The guys are rolling right along," Liberty Head Coach Bryan Rigg said, noting that the Gold Bracket playoff will be an eight-team, single-elimination format.
The Flames, ranked 11th in the nation, won their five-team pool that included unranked Loyola of Chicago, No. 23 Central Florida, No. 24 Missouri, and No. 10 Purdue, which they defeated in succession from lowest- to highest-ranked. Liberty swept UCF, 25-15, 25-18 and Mizzou 25-19, 25-19, before needing three games to overcome the Boilermakers in the tightest match of the day, 25-22, 23-25, 16-14.
"The reason we won all day today was we had a bunch of guys playing well," Rigg said. "When (junior setter) Kaden Knepper is playing well, we all play well and he was on today. He had a ton of service aces, he played great defense, and his sets were on point. (Junior middle hitter) Gene (Dejesus) and (outside hitter) Brady (Quakenbush) led us at the net. They were more physical than our opponents' hitters and they had tons of kills and (sophomore) Daniel Koloff hit near .750 today."
"We had a group of six guys who played the best I've ever seen Liberty volleyball play in the last seven years," Rigg said. "I want them to think about (Sunday's playoffs), but first I want them to enjoy the moment because we've never made the Gold Bracket and we won decisively today."
The other three top-seeded teams after pool play are No. 3-ranked Illinois, which swept Liberty in a crossover match on Saturday night, 25-19, 25-15, No. 17 Virginia Tech, and the host Hoosiers, ranked 22nd in the country.
Liberty will face the winner of Sunday's 9:30 a.m. crossover match between Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Depaul in their first-round match, set for 10:30 a.m., with a potential semifinal clash with the Hokies, who the Flames have beaten twice this season.