Liberty men's, women's pairs claim titles at home tournament
May 3, 2014 | Lynchburg, Va.
Ideal weather conditions set the stage for a spectacular men's and women's beach volleyball tournament, in which two Flames tandems emerged (one men's and one women's) on top Saturday at Liberty University's eight courts on East Campus.
"Mike's a good all-around hitter and a power hitter and Aaron has a great touch shot and (opponents) were unable to defend against that," Liberty Head Coach Rachel Willis said. "They balance each other out."
In the semifinals, Morrison and Brooks played efficiently to eliminate Thomas Bouring and Tim Jacobson 21-16 while Fawcett and Nelson upset Ryan Culkin and David Hong, middle hitter and defensive specialist, respectively, from the Flames' indoor team, 21-17.
Earlier in the day, Lady Flames freshmen Morgan Horne and Jules Johnson held off Willis and Karyl Bacon, a Liberty University strength coach who formerly played on the indoor volleyball team, 21-15 in the women's final played on the courts beyond the new intramural fields.
"They're really, really solid when they're in their system and they were in their system more today than I've ever seen them," Willis said. "They have improved quite a bit from last week to this week."
|Liberty sophomore teammates Dana Mercer and Elissa Mulcahy play side-by-side to make a dig on Saturday.|
The spring temperatures were even more favorable than those at last weekend's Florida Gulf Coast Regional Championships in Siesta Key, Fla., where Liberty's teams opened their season.
"It's beautiful," Willis said. "It's not too hot, but not cold at all. There's a little bit of wind, whereas in Florida we dealt with a lot more wind. Here, it was just a nice breeze to cool us off."
Other alumna and members of the Lady Flames' indoor program provided much of the competition for Liberty's women's players while former professional beach volleyball tandem Brandon Aronson and Rusty Zarger played in the men's bracket.
"Coming out to play (beach volleyball) is a completely different game," Johnson said. "Indoor's more about power and outdoor's more about placement."
Horne, a Liberty Christian Academy graduate, and Johnson, from California, both played the indoor game in high school.
"It's definitely a transition from the indoor to the beach game," Johnson said. "It's not as natural as I'd like it to be, but we're working at it."
She has formed a quick bond with Horne.
"Definitely, we're the best fit," Johnson said. "I can't see myself playing with anyone else. I'm really excited about what the next three years have in store for us."
Willis was glad two of her top men's and women's duos emerged victorious in the tournament that drew 10 men's and 12 women's tandems.
"Beach volleyball is about partnerships and we're starting to get into our stride a little bit," she said. "We're feeling more comfortable and communicating better with each other which are signs of the progress we're making as a program."
The Liberty Flames Sports Network will feature Liberty's first home tournament of the season in its "GameOn" segment on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The video of the show is available online.
Liberty will host a National Collegiate Sand Volleyball Association (NCSVA) Regional qualifying tournament on May 24 before traveling to national qualifiers in Virginia Beach on June 6-7 and July 13-14 to prepare for the July 24 NCSVA Collegiate Championships in Long Beach, Calif.
Images by Kevin Manguiob/Liberty University