Flames' DI team in Silver bracket, DII strikes Gold at NCVF
April 7, 2016 | Louisville, Ky.
UPDATE: On the second day of the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation (NCVF) National Championships in Louisville, Ky., Liberty University's Division I men's volleyball team lost Friday morning's crossover match to Arizona, 25-8, 25-18, before rebounding to defeat Michigan State, 25-23, 25-19, and California-Davis, 25-19, 25-18, to reach the Silver bracket of Saturday's playoffs.
The Flames (3-3) will face Sacramento State (Calif.) — which was knocked out of contention for the Gold bracket by Virginia Tech — in Saturday's opening round, starting at 10:30 a.m.
Liberty's DII team improved to 4-2 and qualified as a low seed in the Gold bracket for Saturday's playoffs by dominating Western Michigan in its first match on Friday, 25-14, 25-10, before sweeping Kentucky's B team, 25-18, 25-12. It ended the day with a 25-20, 25-11 loss to Penn State's B squad to slip to the 13th seed in the Gold bracket, where it will face No. 4 Indiana's B team at 9 a.m. Should it advance to the Gold bracket final, that match would be webcast live at 2:30 p.m.
Liberty University's Division I and II men's volleyball teams met top-level competition on the first day of the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation (NCVF) National Championships in Louisville, Ky.
The Flames' DI squad, ranked 30th in the nation, gave sixth-ranked UCLA an extremely close battle before falling 28-26, 28-26 in Wednesday morning's first round of pool play.
"They're not a big team, and not very aggressive, but they're a good ball-handling team," Liberty Head Coach Bryan Rigg said. "We got to 20 first in both sets, up 23-20 and 23-21 and we probably played our best volleyball today for the whole year. We're a great, athletic team, we just don't have the time together yet to pull out those close games."
"No one could handle him," Rigg said. "He was putting balls over blockers. He looks like a guy who's been playing with us for years. Our middle hitters also got blocks and kills. Having them engaged in the game is very important."
Liberty was then swept by No. 19 Ohio State, 25-20, 27-25 — after starting with a 4-0 deficit in the first game due to a four-minute delay in checking in for its refereeing assignment in an earlier match.
"It would have been another point-for-point match if it hadn't been for the penalty," Rigg said.
The Flames then held off an upset bid by No. 43 Grand Valley State to win their third and final match in pool play, 25-19, 21-25, 15-9.
"We were gunning all the way down to the wire," Rigg said. "Grand Valley State's a totally different team and oftentimes we struggle with those games because we play down to them. If had lost that and finished fourth in our pool, we would have gone down to the consolation bracket."
Instead, Liberty will face 17th-ranked Arizona, which finished second in its pool, in a crossover match Friday at 8 a.m. to determine who it plays at 10:30 or 11:30 a.m.
"If we win the challenge match, we are guaranteed being in the gold or silver bracket (for Saturday's playoffs)," Rigg said. "If we lose, we'll be in the silver or bronze bracket."
The Flames have never played Arizona, one of the 20 original schools in the NCVF.
"They've won a few national championships and have a high pedigree of incoming recruits," Rigg said. "Arizona's in the same tradition of Virginia Tech and Wisconsin-Oshkosh. They're a great, a big team, very tall."
The Wildcats lost their first match in pool play to California-Berkeley, giving the Flames hope of catching them off their game early in the day.
"They came out slow in the morning and went to three sets against Illinois," Rigg said. "If they get into a groove, they will be hard to stop. If we can keep them on their heels, uncomfortable early in the morning, we definitely have a shot of beating them."
Virginia Tech, ranked second in the nation behind Cal Poly, won its pool handily and is one of three ECVA teams to do so along with Penn State and Florida.
Liberty's DII team, which came in seeded 11th in the DIII pool, was upset by No. 34 Alabama's B team, 23-25, 25-23, 15-13, before defeating No. 14 Ohio State's B team, 25-21, 24-26, 15-10, and No. 37 Rhode Island Community College, 25-21, 25-12.
"We got off to a slow start against Alabama and could have easily won that pool," Rigg said.
Sophomore libero Sam Wyman, who made the All-East Coast Tournament team, provided great passing while sophomore outside hitter T.J. Forsythe led the Flames in kills along with middle hitter John Davenport, feeding off assists from freshman setter Kaden Knepper.
"Kaden leads on the floor, whether he's on or off physically," Rigg said. "He's our motivational leader and always keeps these guys composed."
Up-to-date tournament results are available on line.