Women’s beach team elevates game by facing higher levels of competition
Liberty University’s women’s beach volleyball program took giant leaps over the 2021-22 season, according to Head Coach Kaleb VanDePerre and Assistant Coach Jess Nelson.
“It was another big step forward for the beach volleyball team,” VanDePerre said. “Last year was the first year we played more than one NCAA team in the duals format, and this year, our whole schedule was full of Division I and II schools, some Division III and Junior Colleges.”
The Lady Flames recorded their first-ever dual-match victory over an NCAA Division I program, defeating Missouri State University in a round-robin event at the University of Tennessee Martin.
“Just to play a full season of duals was really awesome, and the level of competition stepped way up,” VanDePerre said. “Our girls got a ton better from playing those schools … and found a lot of success, just in depth and development.”
Nelson said the team’s success in the sand started in their offseason strength and conditioning.
“It’s been a lot of growth from the weight room into the sand and just a lot of competition between pairings on the team, and then that translates really well to the levels of teams that we’ve faced on the road,” she said.
Lady Flames graduating senior Lexi Kruse testified to the degree of improvement she experienced as a player and from a team standpoint throughout her four years.
“From the start of the program to now, there has definitely been a lot of growth both physically on the court, but mentally and spiritually (as well) our team dynamic has grown a lot stronger,” she said. “Each girl (tandem) has a great bond, great chemistry.”
VanDePerre said beach volleyball is the fastest-growing sport at the juniors and collegiate level, as well as throughout the world, which has contributed to the talent pool the Lady Flames have to draw from.
“The level of incoming kids has just gotten higher and higher, which is awesome for us because we’re more competitive (and) we’re much deeper,” he said. “Competition is something we’ve talked about a lot to grow on the team and now practices at times are more competitive than some of our matches, which is huge just for that growth mindset.”
Rising junior Sydnie Metzker said the Lady Flames will keep developing their games and raising their beach volleyball IQs by staying in the sand as much as possible before their competitive collegiate season starts back up.
“In the offseason, over the summer, we’ll just continue to work out and continue to get reps in so that we’ll be ready in the fall to just get right back into playing schools and continue growing the program,” she said.
Video by Olivia Bergen/Club Sports Video & Media Coordinator