No. 4 Flames, North Dakota State to duel in MCLA DII opener
May 7, 2013 | Greenville, S.C.
Seedings for next week's Men's Collegiate Lacrosse Association Division II national tournament were released Sunday when first-time Southeast Lacrosse Conference tournament champion Liberty University learned it will face No. 13 North Dakota State University (7-5) in the first round, Monday at 10:30 a.m. on Field No. 4 at the Wenwood Soccer Complex in Greenville, S.C.
The Flames (16-1), making their first appearance in the 16-team Division II tournament before moving up to Division I next year, were ranked No. 4 in the latest MCLA DII national poll and seeded fourth for the tournament. Their only loss of the season came against MCLA Division I Richmond, which is transitioning to the NCAA Division I level.
"We're excited and looking forward to the opportunity," Liberty head coach Kyle McQuillan said. "We do not have an easy road to the national championship. I don't think NDSU is a pushover."
He noted four of the Bison's five losses came against teams ranked in the top three — the past two to No. 3 St. John's in the Upper Midwest Lacrosse League regular-season final and tournament semifinal; No. 2 Westminster; and No. 1 St. Thomas, which beat St. John's in the UMLL final.
"You've got to play the best to be the best," McQuillan said. "We could go from playing an undervalued NDSU team to playing the No. 5 team in the country, Concordia, a Christian school from California. If we make it to the Final Four, we're basically on a collision course with St. Thomas, the defending national champions who are undefeated this year."
Three SELC teams made the field, including tournament runner-up Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and No. 7-ranked Palm Beach Atlantic, which the Flames defeated 21-17 in the first round. But there was one notable absence — defending conference tournament champion Elon (9-4). The Phoenix lost its last three games, starting with an 11-10 regular-season-ending setback at Liberty and Division I N.C. State before falling to SCAD 12-3 in the first round of the SELC tournament and dropping to No. 10 in the MCLA poll.
"Elon's a really good rival and I'm not necessarily glad it didn't get in, but that's one less team we have to worry about," McQuillan said. "One cool thing about a national tournament is you do get to see different teams."
The only four teams in the field Liberty has faced this season — SCAD and Palm Beach from the SELC and Grand Valley and Indiana Tech, who the Flames defeated on their spring break road trip — are on the other side of the bracket.
"The only way we'd meet them would be in the national championship game," McQuillan said.
All 30 games of the MCLA DI and DII tournaments will be webcast live from Greenville on mcla.us, with the Flames' potential quarterfinal match set for Tuesday at 10:30 a.m., their semifinal Thursday at 2 p.m., and the championship Saturday at 5 p.m.
McQuillan is confident Liberty's freewheeling style of play will match up well against opponents' more fundamental formations.
"A lot of teams we'll play are going to be very structured, with very set offenses and defenses," he said. "By direct comparison, we're a little bit more free-spirited. We play a very fast-paced style of offense, push the ball on transition, take chances when they're available. We've got a lot of variations to our game and hopefully will be able to use that to our advantage."
Recently, Kurt Tobias, who eclipsed the 100-goal mark for his career earlier this season, received national recognition by being selected as the MCLA Division II offensive player of the month for April. His 86 points this season (61 goals, 25 assists) rank him second on the Flames behind freshman Ryan Miller's 92 points (60 goals, 32 assists).
Before traveling to the MCLA Division II tournament, McQuillan put together a newsletter chronicling the Flames' 2013 season.