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    February 23, 2022 Axton, Va. RSS |

    Liberty University’s men’s ultimate team made an impressive spring semester debut at the Commonwealth Cup played last weekend at the Smith River Sports Complex in Axton, Va., breaking its No. 11 seed to finish eighth out of 15 teams despite injuries to three of its starting seven, all handlers.

    The Flames went 3-1 in Saturday’s pool play, held in very windy conditions, by defeating the eighth-seeded Triangle (N.C.) Tourists, 11-4, the fifth-seeded University of Pennsylvania, 8-5, and the University of Virginia’s B team, 8-2, before falling to second-seeded Mary Washington, 7-6.

    In the first round of Sunday’s playoffs, the Flames were sent to the consolation bracket with an 11-8 loss to ninth-seeded SUNY-Binghamton, before dropping their rematch with UPenn, 10-6, and it’s seventh-place final to No. 13 West Virginia, 9-7.

    “We had a few key injuries, including one who dislocated his elbow,” Liberty Head Coach Kevin Habermas said. “The goal before the tournament was not worrying about winning, but concentrating on getting players experience and building toward our (Virginia) Conference Championships in April, and I think we achieved that. We could have done better (in the playoffs) but we learned a lot. We got a lot of experience for players who otherwise wouldn’t have.”

    Sophomore Jackson Klingenburg and senior Ethan Allison were two players who got more playing time than any of their teammates on the offensive and defensive lines, respectively.

    “Ethan played almost every point, and I don’t know how he had the energy to do that considering he guarded the opposing team’s best player most of the time,” Habermas said. “The team voted Jackson our tournament MVP. He’s a first-year offensive line cutter, and he was all over the place, making great cuts, playing pretty much every O-line point, and some D-line as well. Those were our two best performances.”

    When the Flames’ starting handlers were sidelined by injuries, players such as junior Jonathan Shirk, freshman Alec Graham, junior Matthew Rogers, and senior Josh Whitaker took on more responsibility in distributing the disc.

    “Everybody really kind of stepped up and filled roles, even if weren’t used to playing them,” Habermas said. “They were thrust into that position where they had to learn on the fly.”

    He said overall, the team developed plans of attack that worked well against various defensive fronts.

    “We played better in each game as the tournament progressed, and saw a lot of defenses we hadn’t seen before, so it was a good experience,” Habermas said. “In practices over the next month, we will definitely be working on beating different types of zones, which was our biggest issue. Most teams couldn’t hang with us when we played against man-to-man.”

    He said breakdowns occurred in the tournament when opponents threw unfamiliar defenses at them.

    “Because we typically run our offense against our defense at practice, when we mixed lines, we had no cohesion. Everybody’s got to get chemistry, so when we mix and match lines or injuries happen, we’re more prepared. That’s what these tournaments leading up to conference are all about.”

    Liberty will host its annual Soggy Socks Hat Tournament on March 19 and an Alumni Game on March 20.

    It will next compete in the March 26-27 Without Limits Ultimate Rodeo and the April 2-3 Atlantic Coast Open, with both being played at Axton and attracting different fields of competition. The Rodeo will bring American (D.C.), Clemson (S.C.), Penn, Middlebury (Vt.), Binghamton (N.Y.), Villanova (Pa.), Temple (Pa.), Princeton (N.J.), and St. Olaf (Minn.).

    The Flames will be one of eight teams in the Virginia Conference Championships, which they will host from April 23-24 at the Liberty Mountain Intramural Complex, along with George Mason, JMU, Radford, Virginia Commonwealth University, UVA, Virginia Tech, and the College of William & Mary.

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer