Flames set for Friday's 'Midnight Mayhem' match with Hokies
January 30, 2019 | Lynchburg, Va.
The annual spring season "Midnight Mayhem" opener will give Liberty University's men's volleyball team a chance to showcase its stars on a larger stage on Friday night at the Vines Center, with the match webcast live by LFSN and carried on ESPN+.
When the Flames host Virginia Tech for the third time in this late-night-approved event, they will look to jumpstart their season by winning the contest for only the second time in five tries. (Liberty swept Virginia Tech in three straight games in 2017 after losing to Rutgers-New Brunswick in 2015 and the Hokies in 2016 and Florida last season.)
"We've got a great rivalry with Virginia Tech and ‘Midnight Mayhem' is a different match than any other match we will play all season," Flames Head Coach Bryan Rigg said. "More of the focus for us is on how to control your emotions and not be overwhelmed by the situation."
With his Division I squad coming off a 16-2-3 fall season, Rigg has never been more confident in the lineup he will put out on the Vines Center floor for the showdown to start at midnight.
"Everybody's playing well and they're unified from the success of the fall season," he said. "They all share a common vision, motivation, drive, desire, and goal. They know what they want and how to get it."
Between semesters, Rigg moved freshman outside hitter James Morton up from the Division II team, giving Liberty three players — along with senior middle hitter Gene Dejesus and freshman opposite hitter Joshua Knapp — who can touch at 11 feet, 8 inches or higher on their approach jumps.
"Gene is an excellent athlete who has gotten better and better in volleyball," Rigg said. "With his ability to play all-around and do so many things other guys can't do, he is the X factor that no one can stop. The new guys bring things we were lacking. Josh (Knapp) is excellent at the net, blocking and hitting, and he gives us an opposite hitter presence we didn't have before that can shut down opponents."
At the net, Dejesus, Knapp, senior outside hitter Brady Quakenbush, senior middle hitter Jacob Holbert, and others feed off senior setter Kaden Knepper's assists. Junior libero Daniel Koloff anchors the defense while he and Knepper, Quakenbush, Koloff, sophomore opposite hitter Sean Taggart, and senior opposite hitter Andrew Eves rank among the team's best servers.
The Midnight Mayhem match will set the stage for an action-packed spring season for the Flames. Next Saturday, Feb. 9, Liberty will host the semester's only East Coast Volleyball Association (ECVA) Play Date with two DI and two DII bids to the March 23 ECVA South Championships at Virginia Tech at stake. The Flames will then travel to the Feb. 16-17 Hoosier-Illini Invitational in Bloomington, Ind., before concluding their regular season at a tournament hosted by NCAA Division III Southern Virginia on March 2-3. The East Coast Championships set for April 6 at the University of Maryland will determine seedings for the NCVF National Championships, set for April 18-20 in Denver, Colo.
"Now that they have Eli and Cody, the DII team is a much better team that I think is a favorite to win a national championship this year," Rigg said. "They're built for the long haul as well."
NCVF National Preseason Rankings for the DI, II, and III levels are scheduled to be released on Feb. 6, when Rigg anticipates both Flames squads being ranked in the top 10 at the same time for the first time in program history.