Men’s beach volleyball team invited to AVCA Fall Collegiate Championships in Alabama
Liberty University’s men’s beach volleyball team was awarded the at-large bid to the inaugural American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Men’s Fall Collegiate Beach Championships, set for Nov. 4-6 at the John Hunt Park Sand Volleyball Complex in Huntsville, Ala., as the AVCA announced this week.
The Flames, who are the only club program in the field, will join East Region qualifier Webber (Fla.) International University, which hosted them for a tournament in late September, West Region bid recipient Westcliff (Calif.) University, and Central Region representative Indiana Tech, which are all NAIA programs.
The AVCA established the Men’s Collegiate Beach Volleyball Alliance last spring. The tournament will consist of open training on Friday, Nov. 4, pool play on Saturday, Nov. 5, and the main draw championships on Sunday, Nov. 6, at the state-of-the-art facility with 15 lighted courts that will host the event through 2024.
“This is the first year, getting it set up and off the ground and it’s a huge accomplishment for us as they only invite four programs from the entire United States,” Liberty Head Coach Kaleb VanDePerre said. “I’ve worked alongside of the AVCA and Beach Volleyball Consulting, on a big committee to unroll and organize this, and it’s been a fun process.”
The Flames lost to the Warriors both at their season-opening AVCA tournament in late August and at another hosted by Webber in Babson Park, Fla., in late September.
“Webber, to me, is the top team in the country,” VanDePerre said.
The Flames will travel with six men’s pairs, a total of 12 of the 16 players on their roster, with five tandems playing in each match, ranked No. 1 through No. 5. VanDePerre and Assistant Coach Josh Knapp. Players making the trip will include sophomore Josh Culpepper, freshmen Zach Lamoureux, Colt Fitzgerald, Jayden Rice, Jackson Stough, Zach Bell, and Gabe Dymmel, junior Mason Ellenberger, seniors Noah Marine, Chase Keith, and Matt Marcinko, and graduate Bran Anderson.
The four men’s teams will play round-robin pool play dual matches on Saturday with the best-of-five format from each of the best-of-three pairs matches determining the winners. Then, they will be reseeded for Sunday’s gold/silver championship and bronze consolation matches.
“We know we will get five duals, so all five of our pairs will play five (best-of-three) matches,” VanDePerre said. “Looking back at all the guys who played here when there wasn’t as much structure and what they did to help lay the foundation, this new crop of players gets to experiencer the benefits of guys like Matt Jones, Kaden Knepper, Gene DeJesus and Zach Martyn. They are excited to go and make connections and contend for a national championship.”
He said the beach court facility in Huntsville a first-class complex.
“It is a really awesome facility that is relatively new and has already hosted some really big events down there,” VanDePerre said, noting that the men’s team championships will be played alongside the NCAA Women’s Pairs Championship event featuring 64 of the top NCAA women’s beach volleyball pairs in the country in a pro-style tournament.
The way the AVCA is set up, the fall semester is pairs-focused for the women and team oriented for the men while the spring semester is reversed, team-heavy for women while the men can play for a pairs championship.
Liberty’s men’s beach volleyball teams is composed primarily of members of its indoor volleyball team, which will travel to Blacksburg, Va., this Saturday at 9 a.m. for the Virginia Tech Fall Tournament before hosting its own on Saturday, Nov. 12, at the LaHaye Multipurpose Center. The Flames announced last week that they will play four home games at the Liberty Arena during the spring season — on Jan. 24, Feb. 7, and Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. and March 4 in its annual “Midnight Mayhem” matchup, against opponents still to be determined.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer