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Cyber Security team crowned regional champion, secures bid to nationals

Left to right: Professor Richard Bansley (Coach), Jared Bieker, Ally McGill, Caleb Matsick, Ben Gordon, Sam Bodine (Alternate), Nathan Higley, Mark Dulaney, Amanda Jones (Captain), Michael Tuzi, Dr. Michael Lehrfeld (Director, Center for Cyber Excellence)

The most competitive region in the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC), the Mid-Atlantic (MACCDC), has always challenged Liberty’s quest for a national title. But Liberty’s 10-man roster, captained by senior Amanda Jones, was determined to rise above that vigorous odd.

And rise it did. The team secured first place at regionals March 18-19 and will compete for nationals in San Antonio, Texas, April 21-23, for the first time since 2016.

“It was incredible,” said Jones, who applauded her teammates and coaches for the hard-earned victory. “My teammates show an incredible amount of leadership and initiative. … I think that’s what made us so consistent across the board in each scoring category.”

Of the 24 teams represented in the Mid-Atlantic, which encompass Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, only eight squads qualify for regionals.

Liberty’s members found themselves competing against 2019 National Champion the University of Virginia (2nd), Drexel University (tied for 3rd), George Mason University (tied for 3rd), University of Maryland Baltimore Country (5th), Community College of Baltimore County (6th), Capitol Technology University (7th), and Bowie State University (8th).

Members gathered prior to a team practice.

The competition format simulates a cyber catastrophe at a large company. Each team, charged with defending a network against an onslaught of hackers, is measured by C-Level Executive Meetings, Incident Response, Injects, and Services.

“We all just kind of unified,” Jones said. “We knew that there was going to be unexpected things and complications going in.”

Thanks to Jones, Liberty earned first place on Day 1 and Day 2 C-Level Executive Meetings, where the team captains brief their “bosses” on everything related to the attack.

“I wanted them to finish strong and point back with no regrets,” said Associate Professor of Computer Science and Team Coach Richard Bansley. “I believe that was accomplished even before the results were announced. … We are recognized as a top-quality, professional group of competitors who put the integrity of our efforts first.”

Liberty has always had a respectable showing at MACCDC, but only the first-place team advances to nationals, with second place contending in a wild-card round. Liberty placed 3rd in 2020 and 2021.

“They’re doing stuff that is outstanding,” said Executive Director of Liberty’s Center for Cyber Excellence Dr. Michael Lehrfeld. “They are not only demonstrating the excellence they have, but the excellence in the program and the university. … “The team never loses its cool. We fight until the end. Even though things may seem bleak, we are going to finish what we started.”

Member Michael Tuzi (left) alongside Team Captain Amanda Jones

Lehrfeld complimented the team on its composure and Christ-like attitude throughout the stressful two-day virtual competition.

“We’re not judged on scores alone,” he said. “We are judged on how we handle ourselves during this competition. … Anybody can do technical stuff, but when you start to combine technical stuff with Christ-like attributes, that’s when we get the win.”

Nationals will be livestreamed April 21-23.

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