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    March 23, 2018 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    Former Liberty University NCAA Division I women's volleyball and women's basketball player Jessica Nelson has returned to fill a void on the beach volleyball coaching staff, complementing Head Coach Kaleb VanDePerre as his primary assistant coach this spring.

    "She'll be a huge addition for our coaching staff and a great role model for our players," VanDePerre said. "She's played at a high level, knows Liberty, and has been phenomenal, just for her experience and how she has connected so well with our players right away. She brings a serious approach to the sport, but still makes it fun."

    Nelson was raised near Tokyo, Japan before graduating from Faith Academy in the Philippines. As a freshman at Liberty in 2004, she played outside hitter for the Lady Flames indoor volleyball team with former Liberty beach volleyball Head Coach Rachel Willis.

    After Nelson graduated with a B.S. in Family and Child Development in 2008 and a Masters in Human Services Counseling with a concentration in Marriage and Family Counseling in 2009, she worked as athletics coordinator at Houghton (N.Y.) Academy, where her father, John Nelson, is the headmaster.

    Jessica Nelson will oversee the Lady Flames' beach volleyball team.

    She previously served as an assistant coach under former Liberty women's indoor volleyball Assistant Coach Jonathan Willis at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Va.

    At Liberty, she hopes to involve the beach team in overseas outreach.

    "I have experienced firsthand how Liberty can influence people in carrying out the Great Commission," Nelson said. "We have a huge passion for the spiritual development of players and that's exciting. We want to increase global awareness for the athletes so they will have an opportunity to make an impact worldwide."

    To start its season, Liberty will send five women's and three men's duos to Saturday's first tournament of the spring season, the Beach South Volleyball Club's Volley America season-opener in Greensboro, N.C. VanDePerre expects about 35 teams competing in men's and women's Open and AA divisions, including collegiate entries from North Carolina State, though inclement weather forecasts could keep some away.

    "Nothing says beach volleyball like snow flurries," VanDePerre said. Temperatures are projected to top out in the 40-degree range with rain possible. "We're just going to go and make the best of it. It will be a good test of our grit and opportunity to practice our positive thinking."

    The Lady Flames will enter two AA teams and three Open pairs — graduate Michelle Melendez joining sophomore Olivia Jensen, freshman Hannah Heller with junior Madison Riley, and freshman Alyssa Register with sophomore Amanda Lyons.

    Junior Josh Talamoa and senior Alex Lower will compete as the men's team's Open tandem with sophomore Matt Gille and senior Andrew Ray forming one AA duo and sophomore Kellins Fongixer and junior Peter Gooch another.

    Next Saturday, Liberty will host an Easter weekend co-ed tournament before staging the National Collegiate Sand Volleyball Association (NCSVA) Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships for the first time on its eight East Campus sand courts on April 28.


    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer