Liberty University beach volleyball teammates Maribeth Kern (left) and Sallie Robertson.
Liberty University photo

Liberty University sand volleyball teammates Maribeth Kern and Sallie Robertson took second place in the National Collegiate Sand Volleyball Association (NCSVA) championships in Long Beach, Calif. earlier this month.

Kern, a 2012 James River High School graduate, has been playing two-person beach volleyball since graduating from JRHS and attending King College then Liberty University.

She graduated this spring from Liberty, and as a member of the university’s top women’s club beach volleyball duo, earned the trip to the club nationals that happened to be the same week as the professional World Series of Volleyball.

Kern and Robertson, a rising sophomore from Amherst County, finished 4-1 in pool play and advanced to the championship match of the six-team open women’s division on July 14.

Their runner-up finish was the highest nationals’ showing in the five-year history of Liberty’s program, after the Flames and Lady Flames posted third-place performances in both the men’s and women’s brackets at the NCWVA championships in 2015.

Kern and Robertson received a first-round bye in the six-team playoffs and reached the final by rallying past the Midwest Regional champions from Lewis (Ill.) University, 28-21.

“We were really excited to advance to the championship match because we were down, 13-8, in the semifinals and we weren’t playing well,” Lady Flames Head Coach Rachel Willis told LU’s Club Sports News reporter Ted Allen. “We called a timeout and made some strategy changes, switched up our offense, and tied it up at 14-14, and from that point we dominated.”

According to Allen’s online article on the LU Club Sports News website, in the championship match, Robertson and Kern wound up falling to a tandem from Stetson (Fla.) University and Seminole State (Fla.) College, 21-16, 21-15. The Florida duo was seeded first after going 5-0 in pool play.

“We started out going point for point with them for the first seven or eight points before they pulled away in both games,” Willis said. “They were just a little bit better. They were very solid and both players could hit the ball anywhere on the court from any position. We weren’t as consistent and they were very difficult to defend.”

Allen reported that winds off the Pacific Ocean weren’t as strong as the Atlantic winds Liberty weathered at the July 8 Big Money Tournament in Virginia Beach and temperatures in Southern California hovered in the low-80-degree range, compared to 90-plus-degree conditions the weekend before as Kern and Robertson readied for the nationals.

Liberty’s players and coaches got to see several pro players and Olympians in action after playing on the same courts used for Saturday’s and Sunday’s World Series of Beach Volleyball.

After the NCSVA Championships, team members competed in the Commonwealth Games’ beach volleyball tournament held on Liberty’s eight courts on East Campus over Main Games Weekend.

Kern was a middle setter on the JRHS team that won the state Group 2A volleyball championship in 2010. She was also a high jumper on the girls state championship track team in 2012.

She’s the daughter of Mary Jo and Wesley Kern of Buchanan.