Flames' DII, DI men's volleyball second, third at East Coast
March 31, 2018 | College Park, Md.
Liberty University's Division I and II men's volleyball teams secured top seeds for the April 12-14 National Collegiate Volleyball Federation (NCVF) Championships by winning their pools and finishing third and second, respectively, at Saturday's East Coast Championships, hosted by the University of Maryland.
"It was not our best East Coast tournament finish for either team, but it was our best combined finish, which was impressive considering the overall competition was better than it has been in the past," Liberty Head Coach Bryan Rigg said.
The Flames' DI squad, ranked seventh in the NCVF, finished 2-1 in pool play, edging 16th-ranked Penn State, 25-23, 22-25, 15-7, and sweeping Binghamton, 25-17, 25-23, before being upset by unranked North Carolina State, 25-23, 25-23. The Flames then defeated the Nittany Lions again, 20-25, 25-22, 15-10, in the playoff quarterfinals before letting fifth-ranked Virginia Tech rally for a 20-25, 29-27, 15-13 semifinal win and settling for third overall behind the champion Hokies and fourth-seeded Florida.
Rigg said the Flames got stronger as the tournament went on, aside from the loss to NC State in the final round of pool play.
"The longer the day went, the bigger the opponent we faced, the better we played," he said. "Penn State and Virginia Tech were the heavy hitters and our blocking and passing picked up and we got into a rhythm with our hitting. By the end of the day, we were playing Liberty volleyball."
The Flames had three finalists for the All-East Coast Tournament Team — senior middle blocker Gene Dejesus, junior setter Kaden Knepper, and junior outside hitter Brady Quakenbush. Dejesus made the six-man team and Knepper earned All-East Coast Volleyball Association (ECVA) South Division honors.
"Brady, Gene, and Kaden led us throughout the tournament and Jacob Holbert had a great day in the middle, as did Andrew Eves on the outside," Rigg said. "Sam Wyman played great on defense and in serve-receive passing."
In the DII bracket, Liberty, ranked No. 8 in the NCVF DIII poll, toppled No. 11 Penn State and Siena to win its pool. Then in the playoffs, the Flames ousted the Nittany Lions in the semifinals, 22-25, 25-22, 15-11 before being swept by SUNY-Brockport (ranked 23rd in the NCVF DII poll) in the championship match, 25-20, 26-24.
"They came up big at the net, with lots of blocks all the way around for those guys," Rigg said. "They were feeling it and were optimistic, encouraging each other. Caleb Pitcher played awesome and led the team in blocks while Sean Taggart led the team in kills."
Rigg said both the Flames' DI and DII teams, who will fly out of Lynchburg for St. Louis on April 11, should receive No. 1 seeds in their respective pools for the 48-team NCVF National Championships in St. Louis, where both will seek to qualify for the 16-team Gold bracket playoffs.