Flames win shootout over Palm Beach in SELC quarterfinals
April 26, 2013 | Marietta, Ga.
Liberty University men's lacrosse coach Kyle McQuillan didn't want to get into a shootout with Palm Beach Atlantic in Friday night's quarterfinal round of the Southeast Lacrosse Conference Division II tournament in Marietta, Ga.
"We wanted to try to avoid a high-scoring affair because if Palm Beach was going to beat us, their overwhelming strength is their offense," he said. "They're not known for having a strong defense, so the idea of getting into a shootout played to their advantage."
After surviving the Sailfish, 21-17, the Flames (14-1) let it be known that they feature the highest-octane attack in the conference this season, earning a trip to today's semifinal game against Emory, from nearby Atlanta, at noon.
"For the first time, we met at team that matched our offensive prowess," McQuillan said. "It was an exciting game, a good, high-scoring, back and forth, back and forth (battle). In the end, we were able to prove we have the most dominant offense in the SELC."
"Joe had a phenomenal game with seven goals and he was a real motivating guy on the field," McQuillan said. "We had him in on the crease and we were able to feed him all game."
"If they had a defensive strategy, it was to shut down Ryan Miller and Bryce Mrakovich," McQuillan said, noting Miller, the Flames' leading scorer on the season, was held to one goal and one assist and Mrakovich one goal and three assists. "We got a little bit less production from those two, scoring-wise. They got a lot of attention due to their reputation, but that created opportunities for Joe and Kurt and Derek to step up, which was huge. Thankfully, we've got some depth and some balance."
PBA held a commanding 26-9 advantage in faceoffs as specialist Kevon Van Stone held the upper hand on Flames freshman Charles Fianko all night.
But Liberty was successful in scoring in transition, with senior long stick middie Michael Zumpano making at least four steals and sparking the Flames' fast-break attacks from the defensive end.
"We had a little success when we settled down, running the set offense, but the key to the offense was we did what always do, which is scoring in transition, not giving the defense a chance to set up," McQuillan said. "It was back and forth, back and forth, a lot of scoring, so it was non-stop transition, and that is Mikes' game."
The Sailfish also thrived out of their fast-break offense.
"All but one or two of their goals in the second half came on fast-break opportunities," McQuillan said, noting Dominic Scalzo was PBA's scoring leader. "They had some very potent scorers who were able to take advantage of moving the ball very quickly and getting shots on net before our defense was really able to dig in and get settled."
He said the difference in the outcome was the Flames' defense made a few more stops than the Sailfish did.
"Both teams were able to score basically at will so it was a matter of who was able to take the ball away more," McQuillan said. "What it came down to was our defense was able to get a couple more takeaways."
Liberty overcame an early 3-0 deficit, just as it had in an 11-10 regular-season-ending win over Elon that gave it the top seed for the tournament out of the North West Region. The Flames led 7-5 at the end of the first quarter and never trailed again.
"It was definitely a little stressful, but it was a good win for us and the guys are really excited, really happy," McQuillan said, noting PBA, ranked sixth in the latest MCLA Division II national poll, was the highest-ranked and most talented offensive team the fourth-ranked Flames had faced all season, one spot higher than Elon.
The only game the Sailfish (10-2) had lost this season was the only one in which they didn't reach double figures in scoring, an 11-9 setback to Savannah College of Art and Design, which dominated Elon 12-3 in another quarterfinal on Friday. SCAD could meet Liberty in Sunday's championship game, which would be a rematch of the Flames' 14-8 triumph on March 2.
"They're just getting their stride and they're finding it at the right time," McQuillan said. "We have the confidence in knowing that we beat them once. But we're not looking past (Saturday's) game."
The noon semifinal against Emory will be webcast live from Northview High School in Johns Creek, Ga., on lax.tv.