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    October 25, 2021 Raleigh, N.C. RSS |

    Competing in its first Mid-Atlantic Collegiate Racquetball Conference tournament in more than a year and a half over the weekend of Oct. 15-17 at North Carolina State, Liberty University’s men’s and women’s teams rose to the occasion, earning first- and second-place respective finishes to start the season atop the combined team standings.

    “Our players played their hearts out and gave all they could give,” Head Coach Danny Rodriguez said, noting that a total of 91 student-athletes from Liberty, NC State, North Carolina, James Madison University, Virginia, Appalachian State, and Lord Fairfax Community College played a total of 217 matches over the three-day tournament.

    The Flames won the men’s competition with a total of 1,535 points, followed by UNC (1,158), JMU (1,024), UVA (949), and NC State (604), which won the women’s event with 856 points, followed by the Lady Flames (483), UNC (287), Appalachian State (280), JMU (210), and UVA (150). In the combined standings, Liberty racked up 2,018 points to seize a sizeable lead on NC State (1,460), UNC (1,445), JMU (1,234), and UVA (1,099).

    Individually, Flames senior Evan Keener won the Division 1-2 Red singles bracket and teamed with graduate Seth Jordan to finish second in Division 1-2 Gold doubles play.

    Andrew Cook won the Division 4 Blue singles event and paired up with fellow freshman Jacob Knox to win the Division 4 Blue doubles draw.

    Graduate Garrison Walker was runner-up in the Division 1-2 Gold singles action, one spot higher than Jordan, and joined forces with senior Trevor Melton to place third in the Division 1-2 Gold doubles bracket. Melton also finished third in Division 1-2 Blue singles action, followed by senior Stephen Fitzgerald, who finished fourth in that bracket as well as in the Division 1-2 Red doubles bracket, playing with senior Ryan Tomlinson.

    “It’s been good to be back on the team,” Fitzgerald said. “My first year was the last year we had tournaments, so we’ve just been practicing all year waiting for a tournament. We’re expecting a lot from our team this year. We’ve added a lot of new players, a lot of really good players, (and) they’ve been excelling and doing amazing.”

    In Division 4 Blue doubles play, sophomore Joseph Dennis placed second competing with a player from another school and also finished fourth in Division 4 Gold singles action. Knox also took fourth in Division 4 Red singles play.

    In women’s competition, Lady Flames junior Danielle Passburg placed runner-up in Division 3 singles and joined junior Sadie Barham to finish third in Division 3-4 doubles play. Meanwhile, Liberty graduate Hope Lassiter teamed up with a player from another school to win the Division 3-4 doubles draw before finishing third in Division 3 singles action. Junior Abigail Iandolo and senior Ivana Quintanilla captured third place in the Division 1-2 Red doubles draw and placed third and fourth, respectively, in the Division 1-2 Red singles bracket. Barham also placed fifth in Division 3 singles.

    Complete results are available online.

    “I like this team,” Rodriguez said, noting they have developed a passion for the sport while fostering a strong family culture founded on Christ. “They’re practicing on their own, they’re playing on weekends, they’re staying after practice and … they’re really looking forward to this season. We didn’t get to play last season, so all we did was practice, practice, practice.”

    “I joined last semester, so it’s still pretty new, but it’s been really great getting to know everybody,” added Lassiter, who previously competed on the Lady Flames’ figure skating team. “It’s been a little bit harder with COVID restrictions being able to practice, but we’ve been making the best of it. It’s intense training, but we are loving it.”

    Liberty will next travel to UNC for its second MACRC tournament the weekend of Nov. 12-14.


    Video by Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media