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    July 27, 2016 Santa Monica, Calif. RSS |

    For the first time, Liberty University had men's and women's beach volleyball teams competing on the same day on two different coasts. While a men's pair and a women's pair competed in the National Collegiate Sand Volleyball Association (NCSVA) Collegiate National Championships in Santa Monica, Calif., on Saturday, five Flames pairs (two men's and three women's) competed in the Virginia Commonwealth Games, played on Liberty's campus.

    At the NCSVA nationals, the Lady Flames tandem of Karyl Wiese and Morgan Horne won three straight games in pool play (each team played five single games to 21) to qualify for the Gold Division bracket, ultimately finishing in fifth overall. After losing to a pair from the the University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB), in their opening game, Wiese and Horne went on to defeat teams from the University of San Francisco; California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obsipo (Cal Poly SLO); and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), before dropping a game to California State University, Long Beach (Long Beach State).

    "I was really happy with their pool play," said Rachel Willis, Liberty beach volleyball head coach. "They defeated a tough Cal Poly SLO opponent whose players were Division I scholarship sand athletes. It was a close game, and they made big plays in clutch moments to finish it out 23-21."

    In the first round of Gold Division playoffs, Liberty faced Long Beach State's Division I sand team in a single game to 28 and fell 21-28.

    Liberty men's beach volleyball players workout with a former Olympian.
    Flames assistant beach volleyball coach Kaleb VanDePerre (from left) participates in a workout session with Olympic gold medalist Eric Fonoimoana along with Liberty players Sam Eisbrenner and David Hong.

    On the men's side, David Hong and Sam Eisbrenner went 2-3 in pool play, missing the Gold Division playoffs but taking second place in the Silver Division bracket. Assistant coach Kaleb VanDePerre and Nick Williamson had also qualified for the tournament but Williamson was unable to make the competition.

    Hong and Eisbrenner lost their opening game to North Carolina State before defeating Cal Poly SLO and UAB and then closing out pool play with losses to another Cal Poly SLO team and Long Beach State. In the Silver playoffs the Flames soundly defeated their opening opponent, a team from USC, before losing a closely contested match (Silver playoffs were best of three) to Cal Poly SLO in three sets.

    While in California, Liberty's players had the opportunity to learn from Olympic-level athletes. The women's players were able to train with former U.S. Olympic beach volleyball player Holly McPeak while the men had a workout session with 2000 Olympic gold medalist Eric Fonoimoana.

    Back home in Virginia it was an all Liberty finals in the Commonwealth Games' women's beach volleyball tournament, with Lydia Smith and Brittany Tyree defeating Cali Anderson and Ashlyn Whitt for the championship. The men's tandem of Justin Bias and Paul Brueckner made it to the finals before losing to former Liberty players Mike Morrison and Ryan Culkin.