Flames win faceoff battle, light up scoreboard often vs. WVU
March 3, 2018 | Lynchburg, Va.
Playing in its home opener at the Liberty Lacrosse Fields and its first-ever contest streamed nationwide to a WatchESPN audience, Liberty University's 20th-ranked men's lacrosse team made quick work of SELC Northwest Region rival West Virginia, winning 18-5 on a sunny but blustery Saturday afternoon.
With sophomore attack Austin Aguilar dominating the first-quarter faceoffs — he won 13 of 15 for the game — Liberty (2-1, 2-0 SELC Northwest Region) ignited its attack early. Sophomore midfielder Carter Elliott netted the first two goals past WVU goalie Nick Raynor from deep in the right side of the box, the second off sophomore attack Caleb Britton's feed from behind the cage.
Junior defenseman Win McKeever helped the Flames capitalize on their first man advantage by intercepting a long clearing attempt and sending a quick outlet to Britton. He fed Aguilar in the right side of the box where he rifled a shot into the lower left corner for a 3-0 Liberty lead with 7:20 left in the first quarter.
Less than a minute and a half later, freshman midfielder Mateo Zumpano ran from right to left behind the cage before finding sophomore midfielder Derrick Esh open for a finish in the left side of the box for a 4-0 Flames advantage before WVU attack Jac Gemmill ended sophomore starting goalie Ryan Reynolds' shutout bid with a side-armed shot in the closing minute of the first quarter.
Exactly a minute into the second, junior attack Sam Gregory (4 goals, 3 assists) maintained possession after running over Mountaineers midfielder Connor Buhrow and sent a pass to Esh for a turnaround shot into the upper netting, extending Liberty's lead to 5-1. On the Flames' next possession, Gregory cut through the right side of the box and spotted Britton (2G, 4A) down low for a top-shelf turnaround finish before junior midfielder Chase Wright found Britton at the top of the box for a shot through traffic that stretched Liberty's edge to 7-1.
Britton and Gregory put away point-blank shots off assists from Wright and freshman midfielder Billy Zoeller, respectively, before sophomore midfielder Eli Britton (2G, 1A) received a pass across the box from senior midfielder Brett Miller and bounced his short-ranged shot past Raynor to give the Flames a commanding 10-1 lead before the half.
Elliott started the second-half scoring his third goal of the game before Esh (3G) and Gregory dodged defenders and converted the third and fourth assists from Caleb Britton into upper-net scores with sharp-angled shots from the left side of the box for a 13-2 advantage.
Zoeller added a goal on a shot from the left before Gregory netted the next two on fast-break and set-play assists from freshman defender Charlie Shier and Aguilar, respectively, capping the third-quarter scoring at 16-2.
West Virginia (2-2, 0-1 SELC Northwest Region) scored the first two goals of the fourth before Elliott netted his fourth and final goal and Zoeller set up Eli Britton for a left-side score, Liberty's last.
Reynolds made four saves and allowed only one first-half goal before being junior Brayden Harriman stopped eight shots and gave up four second-half scores.
Liberty's lopsided win was a positive response to last Sunday's 10-8 loss at No. 11 South Carolina. The Flames will now shift their focus to preparing to face the highest-ranked opponents they have ever hosted — No . 5 Colorado on Friday at 6 p.m. and No. 6 Arizona State on Saturday at 8 p.m.
"We've definitely improved each game and cleaned some things up and made some adjustments and we'll continue to do that," McQuillan said. "Regardless of what happens this weekend, we're going to be a better team for it and we need to make sure that we're firing on all cylinders come the end of April. That's the ultimate goal."