Liberty fires on all cylinders against Davidson, goes to 9-0
March 23, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
Four players scored four goals or more, including freshman attack Ryan Miller who added a game-high six assists, to spark Liberty University's men's lacrosse team to a dominating 23-4 triumph over Davidson, a Northwest Division rival in the Southeast Lacrosse Conference.
"These are the games that matter in order to make playoffs," Flames head coach Kyle McQuillan said. "Fortunately, we were able to come out swinging and get some early goals and really kind of take control of the game. It was a good night for us."
The Flames, who rose from No. 12 to No. 8 in this week's Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association Division II poll, improved to 9-0, 1-0 in SELC divisional play with their most one-sided victory of the year. Liberty, which scored twice in the opening minute, nine times in the first quarter, and led 17-0 at halftime, has now outscored opponents by a 147-55 margin.
"The best thing about our team is we're dangerous from so many positions," McQuillan said. "We don't have one or two guys we feed the ball through. We literally have five, six, seven, or eight. Our first eight goals were scored by seven different people. Teams are starting to notice you can't mark off one player at a time, you've got to kind of take into consideration all of us."
Freshman attack Bryce Mrakovich led Liberty with five goals and nine ground-ball pickups.
"That was a good night for him, especially in the midfield position, because, technically, your midfielders are the guys bringing the ball back and forth and aren't your traditional goal-scorers," McQuillan said. "So for him to come out and lead the team in goals kind of shows how dominant a player he can be at his position."
After splitting two defenders near the top of the circle, Mrakovich capped the first-quarter scoring by releasing a shot with 1.5 seconds left as he was falling to the ground that got past Wildcats goalie Henry Martin.
"We're a transition team for sure," said Tobias, who finished most of his goals on set plays from deep in the left crease. "I would say it's pretty balanced. The defense does their thing and the offense is definitely putting the ball in the back of the net."
A couple of Gargiulo's scores were highlight reel material. The former University of Delaware attack bounced his first goal in for a 4-0 advantage and later pushed the lead to 12-0 with a spectacular shot from behind his head while one his knees after being checked to the ground in the right crease.
Freshman faceoff specialist Charles Fianko won 12 of his 19 faceoffs, igniting the attack from the opening whistle.
"Charles is a guy who started the season not knowing he was going to be our faceoff guy," McQuillan said. "We lost our faceoff guy in the fall and so he kind of stepped in a big way and has made huge improvements for us. The faceoff is such a big part of the game because possession is such a big part of lacrosse so he's done an awesome job for us."
Sophomore goalkeeper Ethan Kamholtz saved a point-blank shot by Davidson's Nolan Kanter and came out of the cage to make a steal of a pass intended for Ryan Moulton, preserving the shutout with two minutes left in the first half. But Davidson freshman attack Charlie Freeburg finally ended it with the first of his three goals midway through the third quarter.
"It's difficult to try to pitch that elusive shutout," McQuillan said. "I thought tonight maybe would have been the night. It's always tough, to keep guys motivated, on their toes. We spent so much time on the offensive side of the ball I felt like the defense was kind of cold every time they brought the ball down."
A decent turnout on a beautiful night at the Liberty Lacrosse Complex helped inspire the Flames, who were playing just their second home game of the season.
"It's nice to be back on our home field and have all the fans," Tobias said. "It really pumps us up."
Liberty next hosts SELC foe Tennessee Wesleyan in its rescheduled "Blackout" game set for midnight Wednesday.
"Tennessee Wesleyan's got a good season going," McQuillan said. "We're hoping to have a lot of fan support for that one and come out in dominant fashion again and get a victory."
The Flames feel confident in their chances of taking the SELC title this year knowing that defending champion Elon (7-1, 3-0), ranked 12th in the MLCA Division II poll, barely beat Davidson (1-5, 0-3) by a 10-9 count last week.
"Elon only beat them by one so that's a good sign for us," Tobias said. "I think staying undefeated, no matter what, will be a huge (statement) for us to the nation, not just the conference."