LU racks up 12 national medals; Rodriguez named top coach
March 18, 2018 | Minneapolis, Minn.
Liberty University's racquetball team sent its largest squad to date to this past week's USA Racquetball Intercollegiate National Championships, hosted by the University of Minnesota. Nine team members — five Flames and four Lady Flames — won a total of 12 singles and doubles medals for top-four finishes, and Head Coach Danny Rodriguez was honored as Coach of the Year by USA Racquetball, the sport's national governing body.
|Liberty Head Coach Danny Rodriguez received USA Racquetball Coach of the Year honors on Saturday.|
Rodriguez, who was instrumental in establishing Liberty's program in 2011, is an American Professional Racquetball Organization (AmPRO) Level 3-certified coach and instructor who has served as a Club Pro at many facilities.
"Since the team originated in 2011, only two players have come in with competitive racquetball experience," Rodriguez said, noting that he and former Flames player and current Assistant Coach Shawn Furman, "trained the rest of them starting from scratch to compete in collegiate racquetball tournaments."
Besides his coaching abilities, Rodriguez is gifted at mentoring players and building team cohesion though social activities and road trips to tournaments.
The four-day national championships featured a total of 178 players from 32 colleges and universities competing in six divisions on 12 courts. Flames senior Daniel Siebler and freshman James Edwards played in the last match of the tournament, finishing fourth in the single-elimination Division I doubles bracket.
In the women's singles, Lady Flames junior Lindsey Marston won the Division 3 Red Level title after losing her first match in the Gold bracket. She overwhelmed Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI's) Emily Puswald, 15-1, 15-1, before sweeping Texas A&M's Rosa Flores, 15-7, 15-3 in the final.
Sophomore Danielle Pearson placed second in the Division 2 Blue bracket, winning her first match over Missouri's Megan Conrad, 15-12, 15-12, before losing to Oregon State's Natalie Lorati, 15-6, 15-7 in the final.
Junior Rebekah Olson finished runner-up in the Division 4 Red bracket, winning her first two matches, over Arizona State's Madison Smith, 15-2, 15-8, and Baldwin Wallace University's Amanda Illig, 15-10, 15-13. Utah State's Aubree Thomas swept Olson in the final to take the title, 15-4, 15-5.
Marston and Olson won their first women's Division 2 Doubles match over Illig and teammate Hannah Durst, 15-0, 13-15, 11-2, before losing their next two to Oregon State's Ashley Smith and Lindsey Repp, 15-0, 15-6, and Missouri's Jenna Heaton and Madison Myers, 15-2, 15-13, to finish fourth.
Senior Sadie Abramowicz, the Mid-Atlantic Conference female player of the year who was the only Lady Flames player making a second trip to nationals, was eliminated with losses to Oregon State's Lexi York and BYU's Krista Yourstone, the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked players in the nation who both play professionally.
In the men's bracket, Edwards finished runner-up in the 12-player Division 2 Red bracket, defeating Rochester Institute of Technology's Rodrigo Folgar, 15-8, 15-7, in the first round before sweeping Texas A&M's A.J. Hepting, 15-5, 15-10, to reach the final. There, he lost a three-game battle to Purdue's Evan Howard, 6-15, 15-11, 11-6.
Senior Jacob Simrell swept RPI's Hunter Eiss, 15-5, 15-8, in his Division 4 Blue bracket first-round match before falling in the final to Missouri's Tyler Hoffmann, 15-10, 15-5.
In the Division 5 Red bracket, sophomore Garrison Walker dominated Northern Arizona's Luke Vaughn in his first match, winning 15-2, 15-1, before dropping a heated match in the final to RPI's Zachary Lueders, 13-15, 15-14, 11-9. Walker also defeated Montana State's Eric Zakrzewski, 15-5, 15-14, in the first round before edging Northern Arizona's Jeremy Kelley, 15-13, 15-13 to reach the final, where he lost a rematch with Lueders, 15-14, 15-5.
Senior Seth Jordan also finished fourth in the Division 3 Blue bracket while Liberty team manager Paul Messerly placed second and Rodriguez finished third in the alumni/coaches division.
Complete results are available online.