In wintry opener, Flames freeze Cougars in their tracks
February 17, 2013 | Lynchburg, Va.
Even Liberty University men's lacrosse head coach Kyle McQuillan, who's from Canada, felt the chill in the air for Sunday afternoon's season-opener against Charleston (S.C.) at the Liberty Lacrosse Complex.
"The sun's out, but the wind's out, too," he said. "It's pretty breezy. It's tough to play any sport when it's this cold."
With temperatures in the 20s and a wind-chill factor in the teens, the Flames still found a way to turn the heat up on the Cougars, winning 12-6 in front of a faithful gathering of more than 200 fans in the frigid conditions.
"Ethan had a great game," McQuillan said, especially in the first half, when the Flames built a 5-1 lead. "I see him continuing to get better. We have high expectations for him. Defense is going to be a strong point for us this season."
Liberty won the opening faceoff of the second quarter and Haywood extended the Flames' lead to 4-0 with a shot from the top of the box seconds after Tobias was denied after posting up down low. Following a Charleston goal, Haywood re-entered as a short penalty expired and found Gargiulo open in the left crease, where he finished high over the Cougars' keeper.
Charleston trimmed the deficit to 5-3 less than 10 minutes into the third quarter before Liberty responded with three straight goals, the second on the opening possession of the fourth quarter. The Flames worked the ball counter-clockwise around the perimeter and the goal before Haywood pocketed a shot from a tough angle on the left side.
Haywood's second assist came off a perfectly timed interception of a Cougars' pass across the top of the box early in the fourth quarter. He never broke stride on a long run upfield before releasing a pass to Gargiulo for a quick finish in the right crease, extending the lead to 8-3.
"We transitioned the ball well," McQuillan said. "We were able to move the ball really quickly and take advantage of the numbers in that situation. In the second half, we probably had three or four goals off the fast break."
Miller recorded both of his goals and one assist in a span of 47 seconds midway through the fourth, setting up Tobias on the left side after making a run into the box to stretch the advantage to 11-4 with 7:50 to go.
Travis Riggs later made a steal and started a fast break before distributing the ball to Miller behind the cage, where he fed Gargiulo in the right crease for the Flames' final score.
Liberty outshot Charleston 27-22, but only won 7 of 29 faceoffs, giving the Cougars more possessions than McQuillan would have liked.
"The story of today's game is yes, we won, but we didn't possess the ball very well, we didn't control the game very well," he said. "We just relied on skill and ability and we got fortunate we were able to score with the opportunities we did have. But in terms of control or executing the game plan, I felt like it was pretty weak. We've got a lot of work to do."
He said the Flames, ranked No. 19 in the last preseason MCLA Division II poll, will face much tougher tests in the near future, starting with George Washington next Sunday in Washington, D.C.
"Not taking anything away from Charleston, (but) they're not ranked right now (and) we're going to see teams that are a lot more aggressive, a lot better fundamentally, more disciplined," he said. "So, it's a good first game, it was good for us to come out and play lacrosse, finally, but at the end of the day, if we hang our hat on a game like that, it's not much to say."
Liberty had its scheduled season opener, Saturday at home against The Citadel, another South Carolina school, canceled due to a coaching change and travel issues.