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 boys club team from Nebraska to win a national championship. The High Flyers are based out of Lincoln, Nebraska and are the only boys travel volleyball team in Nebraska.
“It honestly doesn’t feel real,” Lutz said. “Last year we had a very poor showing (at nationals) and I think everything is coming true this year it hasn’t set in yet for everyone.”
Lutz started playing volleyball competitively around eight years ago and joined the High Flyers travel team four years ago.
Volleyball is a family passion for Lutz. His father, DC, coached a YMCA volleyball team and his sister, Zoey, also played.
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“That kind of roped me into it because we both were able to do practices and it was just kind of a family affair and it just kind of grew from there,” he said.
After falling short of their goals at the national tournament in 2021, the High Flyers had a lot of motivation headed into the tournament this year.
That sentiment rang especially true for Lutz in his final season with the High Flyers.
“With how things went last year and then the first year we got a bit COVID hit, so we didn’t get to go to Nationals,” he said. “We all kind of had a chip on our shoulder this year to kind of prove everyone wrong, that we were a good team and we were capable of doing this.”
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 the third day in a pool-play match.
The High Flyers didn’t let the defeat bring them down and used it as motivation entering the gold bracket on the final day.
“That just ignited something in all of us that pushed us to the end.”
Thursday was an eight-team single-elimination tournament. The Flyers earned the No. 3 seed for their pool play. They started the day with a 25-22, 25-22 victory over AJAX. In the semi-finals, they defeated SNVF 26-24, 25-22.
They finished the tournament with a rematch against SMBC West Adidas, who they defeated earlier in the tournament.
“We ended up playing a team we had in our first pool,” Lutz said. “That would kind of help us nerves-wise. We knew the competition was familiar. We kind of knew some of their tendencies.
“I think when we got pushed to that third set we just put everything out there and we played smart and just kind of scraped it out. When the last serve hit, we all just kind of felt like everything that led up to this point was all worth it.”
The High Flyer won the championship match 25-22, 22-25, 17-15.
Lutz played a big role in the championship run, playing six rotations. He was also one of the top servers on the team.
“Liam was huge,” head coach Jack MacLean said. “… He’s played a lot of different positions but he really for the most part has played outside. Outside hitter is a really critical role. He was a passer, one of our top attackers.”
Lutz was also named to the All-Tournament team for his performance. He was one of four players on the High Flyers to make the team.
“Liam is the type of kid that leads by example,” MacLean said. “He’s not going to be the really rowdy, loud, vocal leader, but he’s just the type of kid that’s always been really focused.
“He has always been really passionate about the game and trains really hard. He’s obviously really talented, but that comes from his hard work and his dedication to the sport.”
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Lutz said. “When it happened it was kind of just a dream come true for me that I’m able to play for four more years.”
Lutz is headed to play Division II college volleyball at Lees-McRae College where he hopes to win another national championship. This time at the collegiate level.