Freshman beach duo impresses at USA Volleyball national team scouting event
Josh Culpepper and Colt Fitzgerald, a freshman tandem on Liberty University’s men’s volleyball team, placed ninth out of 32 pairs in Saturday’s and Sunday’s USA Volleyball College Beach Challenge hosted by Stevenson University in Pikesville, Md.
“The tournament was run as a talent-finding pool for the USA Volleyball National Team Development Program, and it featured a good mix of players mostly from NCAA Division I, II, and III indoor programs in the National Volleyball governing body,” Flames Head Coach Kaleb VanDePerre said.
Culpepper, from Beavercreek, Ohio, and Fitzgerald, from Newport, N.C., teamed up to defeat a duo from the University of Charleston, 14-21, 21-19, 15-12, in their opening match before being swept by Carlos Jimenez and Jackson Arnold from Webber International (Fla.) University, 21-16, 21-16, to finish second in their four-team pool.
“Overall, I was really proud of the way the guys improved over the weekend,” VanDePerre said. “It’s been a while since we took two freshmen to an event this size and caliber, and it was great to see us put some things together so early in their careers.
In the consolation rounds, the Liberty pair then swept Stevenson’s Brian Farrell and Doug Hines, 21-17, 21-11, and McKendree’s Kevin Schuele and Robert Nardoni, 21-12, 21-15, before dropping their final match to Lincoln Memorial’s Asa LaBreche and Tate Colebaugh, 21-19, 21-18.
“I felt like we could’ve won the round of 16 match against a really solid LMU team, but they made some defensive plays that were the difference, and we just didn’t have an answer late in both sets,” VanDePerre said. “This is an event these guys are going to look to win over the next three years, and we know what we have to work on in the meantime.”
Complete results are available online.
Liberty will send its top five men’s pairs to Webber, located 60 miles south of Orlando, for dual team format match play on Friday, Sept. 23, and a pairs bracket event on Saturday, Sept. 24.
“Webber’s tough,” VanDePerre said, noting the Flames were swept by the Warriors by 5-0 scores twice at their USA Volleyball-sanctioned Men’s Collegiate Beach Volleyball Alliance tournament at Liberty on Aug. 26-28. “They have a lot of international students and will definitely be the hardest team there.”
He said the men’s indoor volleyball team that he also coaches, made up of many of the same players as the beach squad, is practicing now and will ramp up for the 2022-23 season after Fall Break, when the beach team will cool down after traveling to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Men’s College Beach Championships set for Nov. 5-6 in Huntsville, Ala.