No. 14 Liberty suffers lopsided loss at No. 9 Virginia Tech
April 17, 2015 | Blacksburg, Va.
As if overcoming the Maroon Effect of playing its first-ever game at Virginia Tech wasn't tough enough, Liberty University's men's lacrosse team had to deal with the "marooned effect" during Friday night's SELC Northwest Region regular-season finale at Thompson Field.
The Flames' bus for the ride from Lynchburg to Blacksburg lost power before reaching Bedford and the team was stranded on the side of Virginia 460 for more than an hour. That postponed the start of the game from 7 to 7:45 p.m. and shortened Liberty's pregame warmups considerably.
The Hokies (12-0 and ranked No. 9 in this week's MCLA DI national poll) fed off a sizeable senior night crowd and outscored Liberty (9-4, No. 14) 5-2 in the first quarter before building its lead to 13-4 by halftime en route to a 15-7 triumph. It was the Flames' worst loss of the season, more decisive than their 14-9 setback at Grand Canyon, now the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.
"We definitely had a tough start," Liberty senior attack Chris Armstrong said. "We'd like to have a longer warm-up time, but it is what it is and stuff like that happens. We didn't adjust how we would have liked to. They're solid defensively and we didn't execute the way we should have. Their offense played great tonight and we didn't step up."
The Hokies played with a sense of purpose, staying undefeated and securing the top seed out of the region for next weekend's SELC Division I Tournament near Atlanta. They have won two of the past three SELC Tournaments, defeating Liberty in last season's championship game after losing the regular-season finale to the Flames on the Liberty Lacrosse Field.
"You can't deny (the Hokies) have a good team," said Liberty junior midfielder Brett Bernardo, who scored twice. "They're well-coached, they worked hard, and they won the game. We're obviously going to have to come out next week and work hard and we'll most likely see them again. It's a whole new season now."
Junior midfielder Chad Moore snapped the Flames' first-quarter scoring drought by receiving a feed off a rebound of his own miss, spinning past a defender and finishing from close range. That trimmed the deficit to 4-1 and junior attack Bryce Mrakovich cut it to 4-2 two minutes later with the first of his three goals, penetrating across the crease and finishing a left-handed shot.
But Virginia Tech sophomore midfielder Conrad Unterkofler ended the first-quarter scoring with a shot from the right side that beat Liberty senior goalie Ethan Kamholtz to the upper netting for a 5-2 advantage.
"We never really found our footing or found our groove," Flames Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said. "Right from the get-go, Virginia Tech was able to jump out to a quick 4-0 lead so we didn't have an opportunity to develop some of the confidence that we usually are able to develop early in the game."
Junior long-stick middie Thomas Westfall won the opening faceoff of the second quarter and took it all the way downfield for a goal that stretched Virginia Tech's lead to 6-2.
"It's really hard to develop a rhythm or any type of flow when you don't have the ball," McQuillan said. "Defensively, we were getting tired, we were getting beat. We knew Virginia Tech defensively was going to be very stout. Unfortunately, tonight, we just didn't have an answer for them."
The Hokies scored twice more in the next minute and a half, by sophomore midfielder Tim Nordbrook and sophomore attack Kyle Mancini off one of several assists from senior attack Joseph Rittenhouse, prompting McQuillan to call a second timeout, trailing 8-2 with 13:13 left in the half.
"We didn't do a very good job of stopping the bleeding," McQuillan said.
As a No. 2 seed in next weekend's SELC Tournament, Liberty will face Florida State in the first round, next Friday at 8 p.m. With a win, the Flames would have a potential semifinal showdown against No. 7 Georgia Tech and rematch with the Hokies in the final.
"We're definitely not on the good side of the bracket going to the playoffs," McQuillan said. "But anytime you go to the SELC Tournament, it's a bit of a dogfight, with three games in three days. We know we've got an uphill climb here and it's a position we put ourselves in. The most important thing is this wasn't our last game and we have a chance at redemption. We have to take experiences like this and learn from them. Our goal right now is to fight our way back and set up a rematch with Virginia Tech."