Liberty Journal

Athletics News

Summer 2014 : Liberty University Athletics & Club Sports

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As the Big South regular-season champions, the Flames (41-18, 23-3 BSC) were the No. 1 seed at this year’s conference tournament, where they lost to No. 2 host Winthrop in the semifinals.

For the first time in Flames Baseball history, the team received an at-large bid to the NCAA regional in Charlottesville, Va., where they faced the University of Arkansas and Bucknell University.

Junior second baseman Ryan Seiz was named Big South Player of the Year, finishing at .351 with 12 home runs and 43 RBIs. Senior Trey Lambert was named Big South Pitcher of the Year and finished 11-3 with a 2.23 ERA. Freshman Parker Bean also had an impressive season (7-3, 2.95 ERA, 78 strikeouts) and was the Big South Freshman of the Year.

Two of the Flames’ more significant wins in the season’s first half came over Duke University March 5 in Durham, N.C., and April 1 at Liberty Baseball Stadium. They then upset No. 20 Clemson on April 22 to move into the top 30 in four national polls.


Men's and Women's Tennis

Liberty’s men’s team won 10 or more matches for the sixth season in a row, finishing 12-10 with a loss to Coastal Carolina in the Big South Championship quarterfinals. During the fall season, Jorge Azuero and Shea Thomas won the ITA Atlantic Regional doubles title and advanced to the quarterfinals at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.

The Lady Flames earned their first-ever ITA top-75 national ranking, as they were listed No. 74 on March 4. Liberty set a new program regular-season record with seven Big South victories and advanced to the Big South Championship as the No. 3 seed before falling to No. 2 Winthrop in the semifinals. The Lady Flames also tied the program record with 15 victories on the season, finishing 15-9.



Two-time former Olympic Gold Medalist Dot Richardson’s first season as head coach at the NCAA level did not get off to a flying start, but it finished with a flurry. The Lady Flames took two out of three games from Presbyterian College to conclude the regular season before upsetting No. 8 Gardner-Webb, 8-5, in the first round of the Big South Tournament.

Junior second baseman Megan Robinson became the first Lady Flames softball player to be voted an Academic All-American. She was named to the 2014 Capital One Academic All-America® Division I Softball third team. She becomes the 20th student-athlete in Liberty athletics department history to be voted to a CoSIDA Academic All-America® Division I team. In mid-June, the program welcomed the 2014 USA Softball Women’s National Team to City Stadium in Lynchburg, when the team played the Central Virginia All-Stars, a team of collegiate and post-collegiate student-athletes coached by Richardson, including some Liberty alumni.


Women's Basketball

For the third season in a row, and seventh overall, Liberty ended the year ranked first in the nation in rebound margin (+15.2). The only other team to achieve that feat is Louisiana Tech, which led the nation four straight years through 1990. Liberty also ranked eighth nationally in field-goal percentage defense (.350), holding all 31 opponents under 50-percent shooting from the field.

This was the seventh consecutive season the Lady Flames eclipsed the 20-win mark.

Liberty’s 175 three-point goals broke the single-season program record of 173 set last year. For only the third time in the past 18 seasons, Liberty (20-11, 15-5 BSC) did not capture a Big South Conference Championship crown or bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The Lady Flames did feature a first-team All-Big South player (Ashley Rininger) for the 18th straight season. The three-time Big South Player of the Week was also the Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She now ranks 24th in program history for career rebounds (497) and 32nd in points (689) after averaging 14.7 and 9.0, respectively.

Liberty put multiple players on the Big South Conference All-Freshman Team (Mickayla Sanders and Simone Brown) for the first time since 2002.


Women's Swimming & Diving

Liberty edged five-time defending champion Florida Gulf Coast to win its first Coastal Collegiate Swimming Association (CCSA) title in the Lady Flames’ fourth season of existence. Liberty Head Coach Jake Shellenberger was named CCSA Women’s Swimming Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons.

From March 20-22, Liberty had four representatives at the NCAA Division I Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships in Minneapolis, Minn., where it placed 43rd as a team. Sophomore Jess Reinhardt earned the highest finish ever by a Lady Flame at the NCAA Championships, placing 10th in the 100-yard butterfly final to earn honorable mention All-America honors.


Men's Basketball

Entering the postseason with 20 losses for the second year in a row, defending Big South Conference (BSC) champion Liberty, seeded fifth, wasn’t able to replicate its storybook run through the BSC Tournament, losing to No. 4-seeded Winthrop, 77-65, in the first round.

The Flames, who finished 5-11 in conference play, ended the season at 11-21. The setback concluded the careers of six seniors, including guard John Caleb Sanders, who now ranks No. 14 on the all-time scoring list with 1,384 points in a program-record 132 career games played. Sanders, the younger brother of former Liberty point guard Jesse Sanders, who re-signed to play next season with the Sydney (Australia) Kings, played in every game of his four-year Flames career.

Redshirt senior forward Antwan Burrus closed out his Liberty career as the program’s 18th-leading scorer with 1,170 points and 10th-best rebounder with 616.


Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field

Liberty’s track & field team sent five male and two female athletes to the May 29-31 NCAA Division I East Preliminary Round meet at North Florida in Jacksonville, Fla. — Zach Davis (high jump), Caleb Edmonds (5,000 meters), Daniel Klase (javelin), Josh MacDonald (steeplechase and 5,000), ConRoy Smith (100), Meghan Burggraf (800), and Jennifer Nicholson (discus).

In all, the men’s team completed its eighth consecutive Big South Conference Triple Crown of men’s cross country, indoor track & field, and outdoor track & field championships by defending its Big South outdoor title on April 21. The Flames are now tied for the second longest streak of conference Triple Crowns in NCAA Division I history. Josh MacDonald was voted Big South Men’s Outstanding Track Performer.

Head Coach Brant Tolsma was named Big South Coach of the Year for the 56th time in his career. He has now guided 82 Liberty cross country and track & field teams to Big South championships.

In the indoor season, the Flames’ men won their 17th consecutive Big South Conference indoor title, marking the longest active streak in NCAA Division I men’s indoor track & field. Liberty then placed fourth at the IC4A meet, representing the team’s fifth top-five finish in the last seven years.

The Liberty women’s team placed second at the Big South Conference outdoor championships and third at the ECAC Division I Indoor Championships, marking their best ECAC finish in program history. The Lady Flames also finished as the Big South indoor runner-up for the second straight season. Junior Mychelle Cumings was named Big South Women’s Outstanding Field Performer after her Liberty- and Big South-record shot put distance of 53 feet, 5½ inches, which narrowly missed NCAA meet qualification.


Men's golf

Ranked as high as No. 24 in the nation by Golfstat after winning the 16-team Sea Best Invitational (Feb. 3-4), the Flames secured their third NCAA Regionals automatic berth in four years by winning the April 21-23 Big South Championships at the Patriot Golf Club in Ninety Six, S.C.  Liberty, seeded first, shot a three-round total of 867 to hold off fifth-seeded Charleston Southern (872) and defending champion Coastal Carolina (878). Senior Chase Marinell was named the Big South Conference Player of the Year after finishing fourth individually at 1-under-par 215. The team advanced to the NCAA Regional competition in Eugene, Ore., where senior Niklas Lindstrom placed third individually and Liberty finished eighth as a team.



Liberty dominated the Mid-Atlantic Conference (MAC) tournament for the third straight season, with junior 157-pounder Chase Boontjer being named MAC Wrestler of the year. Then, at the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) Championship meet in Allen, Texas, freshman 133-pound wrestler Ryan Diehl was named NCWA Wrestler of the Year after upsetting Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s top-seeded, undefeated, defending national champion senior Sam Shames, 15-10 in the championship match. He finished his first season at 34-0 and helped the Flames (171.5 points) hold off third-place Shorter University (162.5) and finish runner-up to national champion Grand Canyon University (254.5), improving on back-to-back third-place finishes.



The women’s equestrian team’s addition as the 32nd Club Sports program was an undisputed success story. Not only did the Lady Flames compete in every show on the schedule after auditing the initial event at Randolph College on Sept. 28, they had at least one place-winner at all but the season-ending show at the University of Virginia, including first-place finishes in intermediate equitation over fences by freshman Elizabeth Chenelle Feb. 7 at Randolph and Feb. 21 at Bridgewater College.


Ski and snowboard

Liberty had strong showings in near-blizzard conditions on Whiteface Mountain in  Lake Placid, N.Y., site of the March 9-15 United States Collegiate Ski and Snowboard Association National Championships.

Led by juniors Kevin Hoff and Isaac Gibson, who placed fifth and sixth, respectively, the men’s snowboarding team placed second out of 10 teams in the Rail Jam, behind only Westminster College. Junior Brandy Fronte and freshman Sydney Beatty paced the Lady Flames to a seventh-place showing in the women’s snowboarding Rail Jam before senior Tim Steltzer took seventh individually in the men’s skiing Rail Jam.

In slopestyle competition, Hoff and Gibson finished 10th and 11th, respectively, to lead the men and Fronte made the finals to boost the women to fourth-place team showings.

Liberty Mountain Snowflex Centre hosted the Snowflex Games (formerly the Dew Games) on April 25-26, with team members and professionals competing for prize money.



Junior Joseph Anderson crossed the finish line 25th out of 1,166 total triathletes (male and female) in a time of 1 hour, 51 minutes, 37.95 seconds at the USA Triathlon National Championships in Tempe, Ariz. He led Liberty to a 29th-place combined team showing out of 119 teams by improving on his 31st-place showing as a sophomore and 45th-place performance as a freshman, when he paced the Flames to 19th place out of 122 teams.

The Flames finished 33rd among men’s teams with 1,182 points while the Lady Flames also came in 33rd with 1,226 points.


Men's lacrosse

Four years after the program was reinstated, the Flames made a seamless transition from Division II to Division I in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA). Liberty (14-4, 5-0 SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference (SELC) DI Northwest Region) went undefeated at home for the second straight season. The Flames broke into the MCLA DI Top-25 on April 8 before upsetting No. 21 Virginia Tech 10-8 at the Liberty Lacrosse Fields to clinch the No. 1 seed out of the Northwest Region for the SELC DI Tournament in Atlanta, Ga.

The Flames advanced to the SELC DI Tournament final with a 15-7 victory over Vanderbilt University and 15-8 triumph over Florida State University before losing the rematch with the Hokies, 13-9, in the final, narrowly missing a bid to the MCLA DI National Championships, ranked No. 21.


Men's Volleyball

National Collegiate Volleyball Federation (NCVF) Coach of the Year Bryan Rigg guided Liberty to its first NCVF Division I-A bracket appearance in club history, April 3-6 in Reno, Nev. The Flames, seeded 41st, opened play with a three-game upset of No. 17 UCLA and went on to place 34th to earn their first top-35 national ranking.

Liberty finished runner-up in the EIVA Division I South Championship Tournament, which it hosted for the second straight year March 22 in the Schilling Center. The Flames went 2-1 in pool play, sweeping the University of North Carolina and the University of Virginia before clinching a first-ever bid to the East Coast Division I Regional Championships with a sweep of James Madison University.


Disc Golf

The Flames moved up to No. 15 in the national collegiate team rankings before defending their third annual Flamethrower Collegiate Classic on the Liberty University Disc Golf Course.

Liberty’s men went on to place a program-best 23rd out of 59 teams in the championship flight at the April 16-19 National Collegiate Disc Golf championships at the Hippodrome Disc Golf Complex in North Augusta, S.C., led by graduate student Joses Merat’s 18th-place individual finish. The team earned an automatic bid to next year’s championships by winning the Second Flight title and placed seventh out of 39 teams in the First Flight, led by Jared Lebo’s fourth-place finish.

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