Liberty's attack goes from hot to cold in loss at Davenport
March 22, 2014 | Grand Rapids, Mich.
A week after returning from a spring break road trip to Florida, where it suffered its first loss of the season at Florida State University in a game played in temperatures reaching the mid-80s, Liberty University's men's lacrosse team was dealt its second defeat in mid-30-degree weather conditions, Saturday at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Mich.
Liberty (7-2) led by one at halftime before giving up four consecutive goals to start the second half of an 11-9 loss to the undefeated Panthers (4-0), ranked No. 14 in the latest MCLA Division I poll. The Flames were limited to three goals after halftime.
"It was a little frustrating because we're usually a very strong team in the third quarter," Liberty Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said. "We were getting opportunities, but we weren't finishing on our shots throughout the second half the way we were in the first."
Liberty junior goalie Ethan Kamholtz came out of the cage to fuel the Flames' transition game late in the first half, feeding senior attack Kurt Tobias (two goals, two assists) who assisted sophomore attack Ryan Miller for a goal that pushed the lead to 5-3. After Davenport tied it back up, Miller, who paced the attack with four goals, netted a diving score that gave Liberty last lead at 6-5 late in the second quarter.
Four consecutive scores by the Panthers left the Flames playing catch-up for the remainder of the contest.
"They definitely got some momentum in the second half," McQuillan said. "Lacrosse is a game of momentum and they were able to hang onto it and go on a little run there. It was definitely a game right until the end. Playing from behind is not a situation we like to play in, but we were right there on the doorstep."
Late in the fourth quarter, sophomore forward Brett Bernardo scored to draw the Flames back within 10-8 and Miller made it a 10-9 contest with 1:12 left in regulation. However, the Panthers won the ensuing faceoff and all but sealed the win with their final goal with 40 seconds on the clock.
Down two with a short amount of time left, the Flames were forced to rush things and came away empty-handed.
"It came down to little mistakes, turnovers, ground balls, and not taking advantage of our opportunities as much as Davenport did," McQuillan said. "When you make a mistake, drop the ball or give them an opportunity to score, they take it, and we didn't do that as much."
Sophomore midfielder Bryce Mrakovich added two goals and two assists and Kamholtz made 16 saves to help keep Liberty in the game.
"Ethan did a tremendous job in the cage for us," McQuillan said. "He was able to single-handedly create three to four turnovers by coming out of the net and being aggressive before sparking the transition."
Liberty faces an even more challenging foe on Sunday at noon, when it visits sixth-ranked Michigan State (4-2) in East Lansing, Mich. The Spartans' only two losses came against No. 4 Brigham Young University (by an 11-10 score) and No. 3 Colorado State University (8-7) before they upset No. 1 Colorado University 11-0, allowing Arizona State University (7-0) to take over the top spot.
"It'll be a good test, as today was," McQuillan said. "A lot of the guys here are pretty frustrated because (Davenport) was a game that we not only could have won, but probably should have won. Hopefully, we'll be able to take some of this frustration (Sunday) and use it in a productive way."
The final game of an eight-game road stretch could set the tone for the rest of the Flames' season.
"It's one of those situations where we can either learn from the loss, mature and grow up as a team, or let it defeat us and tear us apart," McQuillan said. "We're still in the driver's seat (in the SELC, Northwest Region) and can still accomplish our goals. I'm looking forward to seeing how the guys respond. Can we move on with optimism? Only time will tell."