Faith & Service

Game On

February 17, 2016

Liberty Flames Sports Network’s (LFSN’s) production of “Game On,” a 30-minute weekly show available to over 50 million households through regional affiliates in North America, aspires to be a Christian version of ESPN’s SportsCenter.

The Liberty University-owned network covers collegiate sports on a national level from a spiritual point of view. “Game On” highlights Flames student-athletes who are accomplishing incredible feats on the playing field as well as in the classroom and community.

Go to www.GameOnLU.com to watch “Game On” episodes and find a list of affiliate stations airing the show across the country. In Central Virginia, “Game On” is available on WFFP-24 (go to www.WFFP24.com or check your local cable provider for channels and availability).

Towering trio of Lady Flames centers share equally big goals

Fifth-year redshirt senior centers Ashley Rininger (6-feet-4-inches), Katelyn Adams (6-feet-5-inches), and Catherine Kearney (6-feet-6-inches) stand head and shoulders above their peers.

Rininger, the Big South Conference (BSC) Tournament MVP last year and Preseason Player of the Year this season, is also a two-time BSC women’s basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year and was the program’s third player to be named an Academic All-American in 2014-15.

After completing undergraduate degrees and receiving an extra year of eligibility either due to injury (Kearney) or not playing as freshmen (Adams and Rininger), all three will graduate with master’s degrees this spring — Adams in nursing education, Kearney in human services counseling with a specialization in executive leadership, and Rininger in criminal justice with a specialization in public administration. Rininger already holds an M.A. in Human Services Counseling with a specialization in crisis response and trauma, so this will be her second master’s degree.

The three student-athletes have equally ambitious goals on the basketball court. Since arriving on campus in 2011, the trio has combined for more than 2,000 points, 1,700 rebounds, and 300 blocked shots in leading the Lady Flames to three Big South Conference Tournament championships in four seasons.

“I want to finish my last year winning the Big South and going as far as we can in the NCAA (tournament),” Kearney said.

“To do that, we know we need to stick together as a team and stay united,” Rininger added.

Liberty Head Coach Carey Green said they have formed a strong bond throughout their careers, like a cord of three strands that cannot easily be broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

“Collectively, they are very driven,” he said. “They complement each other like one heart. They are truly sisters in Christ.”

Point guard Atencia shines among rising stars on Flames’ young squad

Though soccer is king in Hansel Atencia’s homeland of Colombia, he grew up with the dream of playing college basketball in the United States. After surviving a terrible car crash as a young teenager, he went on to become a star point guard on Columbia’s U-17 national team in the 2013 South America Championships, earning a spot on the all-tournament team.

“God has something big for me if He didn’t let me die,” Atencia said. “I started to trust more in God and try to be thankful for everything He has done for me every single day.”

Hansel AtenciaAtencia moved to the United States to spend his senior year at Mountain Mission, a boarding school for teenagers in need located in Grundy, Va. Learning alongside students from 60 countries around the world, Atencia took his game to a new level, overcoming the language barrier to graduate at the top of his class.

“I see him as the perfect overachiever,” Mountain Mission President Chris Slone told “Game On” after the 5-foot-10-inch point guard signed with the Flames. “Folks look at him and think, ‘Division I? I don’t know. He’s not that tall.’ That’s always the first reaction. The reality is, give him about five minutes on the court and their jaw is dropping. We see that in other areas of life, not just athletics. Hansel puts his mind to whatever he wants to do.”

Atencia is one of several talented underclassmen and one of eight guards on a 12-man roster that ranks among the youngest in all of NCAA Division I, with tremendous potential for continued growth.

“If I have to shoot a 3-pointer to help my team, I’m going to do it,” Atencia said. “If I have to pass, I’m going to do it. I don’t care if I’m going to be the star of the game — I just want to help win.”

Soccer forward’s goal is to play and live like her dad

Brittany Aanderud, who recently completed her senior season as a forward on Liberty University’s women’s soccer team, learned plenty about the sport from her dad, Steve, a former standout at Biola University and her coach growing up.

“I’d be out there three or four times a week, just training with him, and if I didn’t get it right, I definitely heard about it,” Brittany said. “I knew that he wanted my best, and he wanted me to be the best. He just cared for me so much that he wasn’t going to let me fail, and I’m actually so thankful for it.”

Brittany AanderudBrittany’s dad continued coaching until the day he died of a heart attack at age 59 in December 2013, just a month after Brittany helped lead the Lady Flames to the Big South Conference tournament championship. But the legacy he left was more than just superior soccer skills — he had taught her about life and love and how to follow the Lord.

“I grew a lot in my walk with Christ on walks with my dad, which was really awesome,” Aanderud said. “We’d just talk about Jesus and soccer, really. He was such an amazing example of Christ.”

His death could have sidetracked her soccer career, but she drew strength from God’s promises, as well her Lady Flames Soccer family. Rebekah Page — one of her best friends and a member of Liberty’s coaching staff — accompanied her to her father’s funeral in Orange County, Calif. Assistant Coach Adam Godwin invited her to live with his family off campus the following semester.

“I felt peace that it was just in God’s hands, and it was because my dad really spoke that truth into me,” said Aanderud, who scored the only goal in a 1-0 Big South championship win over Campbell on Nov. 8, securing the Lady Flames’ fifth BSC tournament title. She joined redshirt junior goalie Holly Van Noord on the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) All-Region Team for a third time.

Congolese refugee finds home on tae kwon do team

Seven years ago, in the midst of one of the deadliest wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Biranganine “John” Ntibonera and 10 members of his family fled the country on foot. Running past dead bodies scattered in the streets of their hometown, they took refuge in the jungle, where they survived for two weeks before boarding a bus to a refugee camp in Kenya.

God made a way for them to fly to the United States, and in July 2009, the Ntibonera family settled in North Carolina. Thankful for a new start, John asked God to provide the opportunity for a college education. He again answered his prayer, and John and his brother landed at Liberty.

John Ntibonera“I needed to go somewhere where I am going to experience my faith, where I’ll be surrounded with students who believe in God, the God who saved me from the jungle, the God who brought me here to the United States,” he said. “I wanted to continue following Him. This school is amazing, Training Champions for Christ. We needed to go.”

When he arrived on campus, Ntibonera searched for an outlet to develop his athletic gifts as well as reach his academic and spiritual potential. He joined the tae kwon do team, and it was a perfect fit.

“Tae kwon do has really opened the doors for me, especially to train and to compete to glorify God,” said Ntibonera, who was recently promoted from green to red belt and represented the Flames at the past two National Collegiate Taekwondo Association (NCTA) national championships. “We are here for Jesus, and we are here to be trained so the world can know that we can also use this sport to change peoples’ lives. He has changed my life.”

Fellowship of the bow: Flames archers form a tightly bonded team

The nicknames of Liberty’s archers speak for themselves: Whistle Britches, Daddy, Corkscrew, Anger Management, Pork Chop and Big Rig — better known as senior Ian Rigney, a five-time collegiate national indoor and outdoor champion.

Rigney won back-to-back United States Collegiate Archery Association 3D Outdoor National Championships in 2012-13 before finishing runner-up in 2014 and fourth this past fall.

“It’s what I do,” he said. “I’m not a football player; I’m not a basketball player. That’s my sport. It’s what I know.”

He considers his teammates brothers and sisters in arms — and in Christ.

“Our team, I could consider them family because we’re such close friends,” Rigney said. “It’s not really a team — it’s more of a fellowship, if you will.”

For most, their love of the sport comes from their experience as bowhunters.

“Most of our guys on the team are big hunters, and that’s where the whole passion for archery comes from,” said second-year Head Coach Mitch Reno III, a Liberty alumnus. “We love to hunt, and we love to shoot our bows, even if we’re just hanging out for a couple hours. So that’s really what our practices are about — spending time together and getting to know each other better, growing as a team and growing as individuals. That’s my job, to provide the leadership and, from time to time, a little spiritual guidance as needed.”

Second-year archery Head Coach Mitch Reno (center) has a quiver full of team members to draw from: Jason “Daddy” Lynch (from left), Chris “Porkchop” Britton, Hunter “Whistle Britches” Jacobs, Sam “Anger Management” Hatcher, Ian “Big Rig” Rigney, and Zach “Corkscrew” King.

Second-year archery Head Coach Mitch Reno (center) has a quiver full of team members to draw from: Jason “Daddy” Lynch (from left), Chris “Porkchop” Britton, Hunter “Whistle Britches” Jacobs, Sam “Anger Management” Hatcher, Ian “Big Rig” Rigney, and Zach “Corkscrew” King.

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