Flames' attack wakes up just in time to pull past Wolfpack
March 29, 2014 | Lynchburg, Va.
Uplifted by a record-setting crowd of over 4,000, Liberty University's men's lacrosse team surged past North Carolina State University early Saturday morning in the second annual "Blackout" game on the recently expanded Liberty Lacrosse Fields.
The game started shortly before midnight on Friday and drew twice as many fans as last year. The Flames, sporting specially designed black uniforms for the occasion, broke ties twice in the fourth quarter before securing a 9-7 win over the Wolfpack.
"Those bleachers probably hold 1,250, but they were packed in there tight last night. We had people all up and down the side and the fence line was all filled in. It's nice to see the support and nice to see that the students here on campus can get behind us," said Flames Head Coach Kyle McQuillan.
The Flames (8-3, 2-0 Southeastern Lacrosse Conference, Northwest Region) emerged victorious over the Wolfpack (4-4, 2-1 SELC Northeast Region) in their first home game since Feb. 23, rewarding the overflow crowd that stayed to the end.
"We found a way to win, regardless of who we were playing or what the situation was," McQuillan said. "We found ourselves in a tie game very late and our guys rose to the occasion."
Both of Liberty's go-ahead goals came after sophomore faceoff specialist Charles Fianko gave his team possession by winning the draws and starting the transition attack.
"We did not have a very successful game from the faceoff circle, but when we needed them, Charles came through for us," McQuillan said. "Possession is such a huge part of the game. You see it all the time. You get the ball and you get possession and it sparks offenses, it sparks momentum."
On the opening faceoff of the fourth quarter, won by Fianko, senior midfielder Miguel Lozada finished a fast break with a charge through the left crease, lifting Liberty to a 7-6 lead with 14:41 remaining.
That's how the score stayed for more than 11 minutes before Wolfpack senior attack Bill Nifong scored his fifth goal of the night from in the right side of the box, tying the game at 7. Fianko won the ensuing faceoff and the Flames maintained possession after a couple checks on the left sideline.
"That was just a good hustle play, a good loose-ball fight from both sides and we were fortunate to be able to come up with it," McQuillan said.
McQuillan was content to protect the one-goal advantage by maintaining possession on attack when the Flames added an insurance goal with 1:21 to go on the best passing sequence of the night. Mrakovich made a run from the perimeter and fed junior attack Chris Armstrong behind the goal. He found senior midfielder Derek Haywood cutting through the right crease, where he finished a shot past NC State sophomore goalie Brady Edwards inside the left post.
"I told the guys, we need to possess the ball, we need to protect this lead, but by all means, if you get a good opportunity, get a look at the net," McQuillan said. "Derek did that. He had good off-ball movement and cut to the crease and was able to find an opening and bury the shot."
Fianko won the faceoff back to senior long-stick midfielder Mike Zumpano and Liberty sophomore attack Ryan Miller stole the ball back from Wolfpack freshman midfielder Carson Creamer to preserve the victory.
Miller and Tobias each scored two goals and added an assist to lead an extremely balanced Flames attack.
"That's one of our strengths," McQuillan said. "We have a lot of different people that can hurt you."
Liberty also got a goal and two assists from freshman midfielder Chad Moore, a goal and an assist from Armstrong, an assist from Mrakovich, and single scores from Haywood, Lozada, and sophomore midfielder Brett Bernardo.
Junior goalie Ethan Kamholtz made 11 saves, many from point-blank range. He also helped set the tempo for the Flames, coming out of the cage after making saves to spark the transition game.
The Flames return to action on Sunday at 1 p.m., when they host Auburn University (0-9, 0-3 SELC Southwest Region) at the Liberty Lacrosse Fields.
Images by Kevin Manguiob/Liberty University