Flames use second-half scoring surge to stave off Wildcats
February 23, 2014 | Lynchburg, Va.
A day and a half after opening its season with a 20-goal victory over Wake Forest, Liberty University's men's lacrosse team survived a much tougher challenge from new MCLA Division I rival New Hampshire, Sunday morning at the Liberty Lacrosse Fields.
"They came out firing on all cylinders," said Flames sophomore faceoff specialist Charles Fianko, who won 10 of 15 faceoffs. "They were really intense so it was a really good wake-up call that this is Division I, that all of our opponents are going to be a battle."
Liberty (2-0) clung to a 3-2 lead at the half before scoring three goals in the first three minutes of the third quarter to gain some separation on the Wildcats (1-1) and emerging with a 12-6 triumph.
"They play good lacrosse up north in New Hampshire and they play in a very difficult conference," Flames Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said. "Our goal as a team is to not allow any team to score more than six goals on us and to score a minimum of 12 goals. So we did the bare minimum, we got our 12 and six.
"It took us a little time to find our feet," he added. "It was two games in a short turnaround, and it's difficult to come off a big high, playing such a good game, and back that up with another good performance. But we did what we needed to do. I felt that we showed we were the dominant team."
Liberty jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead when sophomore attack Ryan Miller made a run from the right endline and beat New Hampshire goalie Connor Nolan into the upper netting. Sophomore midfielder Chad Moore then hit a post with a shot before rifling another shot from the top left side of the box that ripped into the net seconds later.
However, after only edging Wake Forest by a 10-8 margin on Saturday, the Wildcats showed they can be a dangerous predator. Moments after sophomore attack Jeff Auger had a quality scoring chance denied by goalie Ethan Kamholtz, New Hampshire cut Liberty's lead in half when Tom Auger finished Thomas LoMedico's pass from behind the cage from point-blank range in the left crease.
Miller scored his second goal with six minutes left in the second quarter before Wildcats freshman midfielder Taylor Maniatti trimmed the deficit to 3-2 by finishing a feed from junior attack Conor McCarthy.
The Flames stormed out of the gate to start the second half, with sophomore midfielder Bryce Mrakovich starting the scoring and senior Kurt Tobias capping a five-goal scoring surge off an assist from Moore, stretching Liberty's lead to 8-2 with 1:48 left in the third.
"We scored three goals in the entire first half and then we scored three goals in the first two and a half minutes of the third quarter," McQuillan said.
Early in the fourth quarter, Kamholtz deflected a running shot by New Hampshire senior middie Chris Benoit off the crossbar for one of his 15 saves.
The Flames capitalized on the other end when junior attack Chris Armstrong delivered a pass from behind the cage to junior defensive midfielder Craig Darling in the right crease before Armstrong netted the next two scores off assists from Tobias and sophomore midfielder Brett Bernardo.
"We have a really great defense so kudos to them and our offense for being patient and disciplined and striking when we needed to," Fianko said.
Liberty will play its next eight games away from home, starting March 1 and 2 at MCLA Northwest Region rivals Kentucky and Tennesse, respectively.
"Those are divisional games against good teams so we have to win those games," Fianko said.