Flames, ranked No. 23 in NCVF poll, top first NCAA DI foe
February 4, 2015 | Philippi, W.Va.
On Wednesday, Liberty University's men's volleyball team was ranked for the first time in the National Collegiate Volleyball Federation (NCVF) Top-25 poll, debuting at No. 23. That night, the Flames traveled to Philippi, W.Va., to face their first NCAA Division I opponent, emerging with a 25-23, 21-25, 25-22, 25-23 victory over Alderson Broaddus University, which is making the transition to NCAA DI this season.
"This was a good rebound for us," Liberty Head Coach Bryan Rigg said, referring to Saturday's five-game loss to Rutgers, ranked No. 14 in the NCVF poll, played after midnight in the Vines Center. "I knew it would test if have the ability to bounce back or not. The guys came ready to play."
With the win, Liberty improved to 2-1 in the spring season (17-3-2 including fall play), while the Battlers, who will face a couple teams ranked in the NCAA DI top 25 this season, slipped to 2-2.
"They play a tough schedule, including Penn State, so it was nice to get in there and mix it up with them," Rigg said. "We knew what to expect because we had received some film on them. They're a smaller school, so they had a smaller crowd, but it was a very intense, competitive atmosphere."
As is often the case, Liberty's defense helped spark its attack, which was led by freshman setter Nick Williamson, who distributed 39 assists and had a .444 hitting percentage.
"The defense fueled the offense," Rigg said. "We had four blocks in game three and a lot of digs all the way around. Josiah Williams and David Hong (who combined for 17 digs) were providing great passing and playing great defense on the back row and we were getting great blocking up front."
Sophomore outside hitter Si Hershberger led the Flames with 16 kills while middle blockers Aaron Brooks (.500) and Sam Eisbrenner (.417) had the highest kill percentages on their spikes. Graduate right side hitter Kevin Snyder added 10 kills and two block assists.
"Those guys all had blocks and (freshman middle hitter) Luke (Werth) had two solo blocks and an assist," Rigg said. "We kept the pressure on them. Our defense kept us in the game and then our offense demoralized them. They weren't as good in passing as we were and we owned them on their jump serve."
Rigg said the Flames were more effective in pulling out the tight games against the Battlers than they had been Saturday against the Scarlet Knights.
"Against Rutgers, when they got close, we struggled," Rigg said. "Tonight, we had a different demeanor at the end of games."
The Flames will next host an Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association tournament, Feb. 14 at the LaHaye Multipurpose Center, with 10 Division I and six Division II teams expected to compete from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Among the DI teams will be Virginia Tech, ranked No. 7 in the NCVF poll, and No. 20 Florida.