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    February 3, 2022 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Less than two weeks after sweeping Eastern Collegiate Volleyball Association (ECVA) rival Virginia, Liberty University’s men’s volleyball team spiked Virginia Tech — perhaps the strongest contender for the ECVA South title — 25-14, 25-20, 16-25, 25-22, Thursday night back at Liberty Arena.

    “We really played our game well and we came out with some fire,” said Flames senior middle hitter Luke Marine, who had seven kills and six blocks. “It was a good team win all around. Everyone did well, it’s not just one guy. Sure, Josh Knapp’s role on the team is huge and it’s hard to win without him, but we need every single guy to play well. It’s a matter of consistency and level-headedness and everyone doing their part.”

    In Game 1, Liberty opened an 8-5 lead after senior outside hitter Cody Reinsma’s kill off a Virginia Tech block. Senior opposite hitter Josh Knapp (match-high 20 kills, .486 kill percentage) made a saving dig near the Flames’ bench back to senior outside hitter Cross Edwards, whose spike to the back right corner was not returned.

    Senior Josh Knapp celebrates the Flames’ four-game win over ECVA rival Virginia Tech.

    Senior setter Tommy Speelman’s short set to senior middle hitter Ben Dowd for a kill stretched Liberty’s lead to 11-8 before Marine’s kill off a short set from Speelman pushed the edge to 16-9. Knapp then went on a five-point service run, capped by a stuff block by Marine and a kill by Knapp from the right side off a backwards set from Speelman, widening the gap to 21-9.

    A cross-court kill by Reinsma pushed the lead to 23-11 before a 1-2 spike combination by Edwards and Knapp on a one-timer polished off the 25-14 first-game win.

    “Josh came through for us,” said Edwards, who had nine kills and two blocks. “Really happy that he was playing really well. He’s a really good leader on the court. All of us played really well. It was awesome. We love playing in the (Liberty) Arena. It’s a great environment and a beautiful facility.”

    Edwards’ spike off a block at the left side pulled the Flames back within 5-4 in Game 2, and an errant spike by the Hokies evened the score at 5 before Marine’s kill tied it at 6 and his service ace gave Liberty its first lead. Back-to-back stuff blocks by Reinsma from the left side and the middle extended it to 8-5.

    Senior middle blocker Luke Marine racked up seven kills and six blocks on the night.

    A one-timed kill by Knapp kept the Flames on top 11-9 before a diving dig save by senior outside hitter Tait Lapham and stuff block by Dowd made it 12-10. Back-to-back stuff blocks by Edwards and Marine and a kill off a Virginia Tech block extended the lead to 15-10. Kills by Marine and Lapham, two more by Reinsma, and a cross-court kill by Knapp kept Liberty up by five at 16-11, 17-12, 18-13, 19-14, and 21-16, respectively. Edwards’ stuff block stretched the lead to 22-16 and Marine pushed it to 23-18 with a kill off a block at the middle, before Edwards eventually ended the game with a service ace.

    Virginia Tech jumped out to a 5-1 lead in Game 3, prompting Flames Head Coach Kaleb VanDePerre to call timeout. Knapp ended the Hokies’ run with one spike kill off a block at the left side and Dowd pulled Liberty back within 6-3 with another. Knapp’s right-side kill off a block kept the Flames in the game, trailing 18-12, and junior libero Mason Ellenberger’s ace pulled them back within five, but they would get no closer as the Hokies closed the game deficit to 2-1 with a 25-16 win.

    Virginia Tech opened a 4-0 lead in Game 4 before Knapp got the Flames going with a spike off a block from the left side, and Edwards pulled them within 6-5 with a kill on Knapp’s four-point service run. An ace by Knapp drew the Flames even at 6, and a kill by Marine stretched it to 8-6, forcing a Virginia Tech timeout.

    A block by Marine and cross-court kill by Reinsma put Liberty back on top at 9-8 and 12-11, respectively. Game 4 was actually tied at 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20 before kills by Speelman and Edwards pushed Liberty’s advantage to 23-20, leading to a Virginia Tech timeout.

    A kill by Knapp set up match point, and Marine’s spike from the middle was deflected on the back row by Virginia Tech to clinch the 25-23 triumph.

    Head Coach Kaleb VanDePerre smiles in the huddle during a Virginia Tech timeout.

    “The third game, they came out firing and we didn’t respond, but the fourth game we responded just the way I like it,” Marine said. “We wanted to bring out the brooms and sweep them, but we lost composure (in Game 3). If that would have gone to five, who knows what would have happened? But the team started playing as a unit again. It’s one team, one goal, and everyone wants to win at the end of the day.”

    Liberty will host the Hokies and the rest of the ECVA in Saturday’s Division I and Division II play date at the LaHaye Multipurpose Center, with the ECVA Championships scheduled for March 26 in Blacksburg, Va.

    “Tonight’s match was a great preview for this Saturday,” Edwards said. “We’re excited. It’s probably either going to be Virginia Tech or UVA (in the final) so we have our work cut out for us.”

    The Flames will return to Liberty Arena for one final regular-season appearance, their annual “Midnight Mayhem” matchup set for next Saturday, Feb. 12, at 11:59 p.m. against Penn State, with the first 500 fans receiving a free t-shirt.

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Videos by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media

    Liberty’s bench keeps the Flames fired up during a key stretch of the match.