Beach volleyball players brush up for NCSVA championships
July 31, 2018 | Long Beach, Calif.
Four of the six representatives Liberty University will enter in Saturday's National Collegiate Sand Volleyball Association (NCSVA) National Championships in Long Beach, Calif., were tested and sharpened by their teammates and coaches at this past weekend's Commonwealth Games beach volleyball tournament played on Liberty's East Campus courts.
Flames rising seniors Gene Dejesus and Kaden Knepper and Lady Flames rising junior Olivia Jensen and rising sophomore Alyssa Register, who will fly out this week to compete at nationals for the first time, were eliminated from Saturday's men's and women's semifinals on their home courts. Jensen and Register will be joined in the women's bracket at nationals by rising sophomores Hannah Schanz and Rachel Weaver, who are traveling to the tournament on their own.
Recent graduate Alex Lower and rising senior David Muller upset Dejesus and Knepper to advance to the finals before Flames Head Coach Kaleb VanDePerre teamed up with men's indoor volleyball Assistant Coach Ryan Culkin to defeat Lower and Muller in the gold medal match. Zach Martyn and Joel Slaughter went on to win the bronze medal by clinching third place.
In the women's bracket, Lady Flames Assistant Coach Jess Nelson and former women's indoor volleyball teammate Lara (Bartolomeo) Hite captured the gold medal by edging Jensen and Register in the championship match. Rising senior Rylie Rice and incoming freshman Marabeth Hammersmith claimed the bronze medal.
For the first time at the Commonwealth Games, there was a juniors (18-and-under) division, which attracted seven pairs of players.
"It was a great day with a lot of volleyball as we prepped for nationals and we're looking forward to having more solid events this (fall) semester and beyond," VanDePerre said. "We are excited to have the tournament grow next year for the State Games of America," which Liberty will host from July 31-Aug. 4, 2019.
Before the nationals tournament, Dejesus and Knepper will train with former Team USA beach volleyball Olympic gold medalist Eric Fonoimoana while Liberty's women's players will work out with Holly McPeak, a three-time Olympian who won 72 career tournaments.
The Flames and Lady Flames will also meet up with rising senior Peter Gooch and former Liberty team members Maribeth Kern and Nik Williamson, who live in California.