DI, DII men's volleyball teams claim Gold, Silver crowns
September 29, 2018 | Lynchburg, Va.
Liberty University's Division I men's volleyball team finished 5-0 in Saturday's Liberty Invitational tournament at the LaHaye Multipurpose Center, winning all 10 games and sweeping NCAA Division III Southern Virginia University 25-22, 25-17 in the final for its first-ever triumph over the Knights.
"I think we've played them 10 times, so it's crazy," said senior Gene Dejesus, who sparked the Flames attack from the middle hitter position. "It was sweet, too. We didn't drop a set all day and we got better every game, every play, so it was great."
Liberty showcased its depth and height advantages throughout the season-opening tournament.
|Liberty's Division I squad won all 10 of its sets Saturday.|
"We were able to play a bunch of different guys in the morning, so we could have our guys not be burned out by the playoffs, when we played our best lineup and got production from everybody," Flames Head Coach Bryan Rigg said.
After sweeping Virginia Tech for the second time on the day in the semifinals of the Gold bracket, the Flames rallied from an early first-game deficit to slay the Knights, with 6-foot, 8-inch freshman Josh Knapp completing the comeback with back-to-back stuff blocks.
"At the end of the first set, the momentum changed when Josh got those two big blocks," Rigg said. "I always tell the guys, defense is better than offense because defense scores psychological points. That was demoralizing and it changes the whole dynamic."
Dejesus teamed up with Knapp for a few blocks as well, but did most of his damage by way of his powerful spikes, complementing senior right-side hitter Brady Quakenbush, who both fed off of senior setter Kaden Knepper.
"Everyone was playing aggressive and getting kills off his sets," Dejesus said. "(Outside hitter) Sean Taggart really stepped us for us in the last couple games against Southern Virginia."
"With Gene up at the net, anything's possible with his kills and blocks, and when Kaden's on, the sky's the limit for us, with his setting and serving," Rigg added. "The serving was terrific today, with Kaden and (libero) Daniel (Koloff) and Brady jump serving for a number of aces."
The tournament featured a number of teams Liberty struggled against in last season's East Coast Championships, including Delaware, JMU, and Virginia, which the Flames defeated soundly in pool play. But the victory over SVU was the most satisfying.
"Southern Virginia didn't lose any sets today either, except for the two they lost to us," Rigg said. "They've got aggressive jump servers and they're a terrific team. They might be one of the top five NCAA Division III teams in the country."
|Freshman James Morton spikes through a VCU block.|
The Flames' DII team, meanwhile, exacted a measure of revenge against Virginia Tech in the Silver bracket final, sweeping the Hokies after suffering their only loss of the day to their closest in-state rivals in pool play.
Both teams will travel to King University for a 10-team tournament on Oct. 13, where the Flames will be the only club program in a field made up of NCAA Division II Carolina Conference teams.