Abraham Lincoln senior Liam Lutz made history on July 7 when he and other members of the High Flyers U18 volleyball club won the national championship in Las Vegas in the USAV Boys Junior National Championship.
The High Flyers are the first Nebraska men’s team to win a national championship. The High Flyers are based in Lincoln, Nebraska and are the only men’s volleyball team to travel to Nebraska.
“Honestly, it doesn’t feel real,” Lutz said. “Last year we had a really bad performance (at the nationals) and I think everything that’s happening this year hasn’t settled in for everyone yet.”
Lutz started playing competitive volleyball about eight years ago and joined the High Flyers travel team four years ago.
Volleyball is a family passion for Lutz. Her father, DC, coached a YMCA volleyball team and her sister, Zoey, also played.
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“It kind of trained me because we were both able to do workouts and it was just kind of a family thing and it just grew from there,” he said. .
After failing to achieve their goals at the national tournament in 2021, the High Flyers had plenty of motivation for the tournament this year.
That sentiment rang especially true for Lutz during his final season with the High Flyers.
“With the way things went last year and then the first year, we got COVID success, so we couldn’t go to nationals,” he said. “We all kind of had a chip on our shoulders this year to prove everyone wrong, that we were a good team and that we were capable of doing it.”
The High Flyers went 10-1 over the four-day tournament.
Lutz and his teammates were 5-0 after the first two days, but suffered a loss on day three in a pool game.
The High Flyers didn’t let the loss get them down and used it as motivation to enter the gold bracket on the final day.
“It just sparked something in all of us that pushed us to the end.”
Thursday was an eight-team knockout tournament. The Flyers got the No. 3 seed for their pool game. They started the day with a 25-22, 25-22 win over AJAX. In the semi-finals, they beat SNVF 26-24, 25-22.
They ended the tournament with a rematch against SMBC West Adidas, whom they defeated earlier in the tournament.
“We ended up playing a team we had in our first group,” Lutz said. “It would kind of help us nervously. We knew the competition was familiar. We kind of knew some of their tendencies.
“I think when we were pushed into that third set, we put everything together and played smart and we just managed to take it out. When the last serve hit, we all felt like everything leading up to this point was worth it.
The High Flyer won the championship game 25-22, 22-25, 17-15.
Lutz has been a big part of the championship chase, playing six rotations. He was also one of the best servers on the team.
“Liam was huge,” head coach Jack MacLean said. “…He played in a lot of different positions, but he mostly played on the outside. The outside hitter is a really critical role. He was a passer, one of our best strikers.
Lutz was also named to the All-Tournament Team for his performance. He was one of four High Flyers players to make the team.
“Liam is the kind of kid who leads by example,” MacLean said. “He won’t be the loud, loud leader, but he’s just the kind of kid who’s always been very focused.
“He’s always been really passionate about the game and trains really hard. He’s obviously very talented, but that comes from hard work and dedication to the sport.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Lutz said. “When it happened, it was kind of a dream come true for me to be able to play for another four years.”
Lutz is heading to Division II college volleyball at Lees-McRae College where he hopes to win another national championship. This time at the college level.