Liberty finishes 34th in Reno, dedicates season to Teague
April 5, 2014 | Reno, Nev.
Competing in the Division I-A bracket of the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation Championships in Reno, Nev., for the first time was an experience not unlike riding a rollercoaster with a blindfold on for Liberty University's men's volleyball team.
"It was certainly a wild trip," Flames Head Coach Bryan Rigg said. "There were lots of ups and downs. It was a long weekend, with a lot of action. It was draining for them and draining for me. I was on my last ounce of energy. We had to get up at 4 a.m. for our flight (back to Lynchburg, Va., Sunday) morning."
Coming in as the No. 41 seed in the 48-team field, the Flames went 4-5 to place 34th overall after going 2-1 in the Bronze Bracket of Saturday's single-elimination championships.
The highlight of the tournament was the opening-match upset of No. 17 UCLA. The lowlight, was the elimination loss to the University of Pennsylvania in Saturday's Bronze Bracket quarterfinals.
"The loss to Texas A&M (in Friday's challenge match to get into the Gold Bracket) and the loss to UPenn were two matches they know they should have won and those were excruciating to watch," Rigg said. "A lot of it had to do with fatigue."
The Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) , the conference Liberty competes in, sent three teams to the Gold Bracket quarterfinals — Penn State, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia, who all finished in the top eight in the nation. The Flames were one of 11 EIVA teams in the Div. I-A bracket.
"To go 4-5 against the top 48 teams in the country is a good thing for us," Rigg said. "We came into the tournament expecting to be put in Division I-AA. We have high expectations for next year. We're not losing very many players at all and we're actually gaining much more than we have going out."
Liberty dedicated this season, and the national tournament in particular, to a former player who died at the start of this school year, Joel Teague, who started at defensive specialist from 2010-12.
"There are only three guys on the team that played with him, but a lot more volunteered and helped his family, really developing a connection to his family," Rigg said.
Freshman middle hitter Josiah Hershberger and sophomore libero Josiah Williams, who played the same exact position as Teague, traveled with Rigg twice to Teague's home in Danville — after Thanksgiving and before Christmas — to finish the deck he was building when he died of leukemia.
"That was something they've talked about a lot through the year," Rigg said of playing in Teague's memory. "They certainly did it to motivate themselves in memory of Joel. That was a great motivator and a key factor."
Getting a complete starting lineup healthy in time for the postseason was another, enabling Rigg to shift his lineup back around to find the best possible combinations.