Liberty's attack catches fire in second quarter at Kentucky
March 1, 2014 | Lexington, Ky.
It took a quarter of play for Liberty University's men's lacrosse team to get its offense in gear Saturday afternoon at the University of Kentucky. But once it did, there was no quenching the Flames' attack in a 20-7 triumph over their first Southeastern Lacrosse Conference Northwest Region rival.
"We started out pretty lukewarm, to be honest," Liberty Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said, noting the Flames and Wildcats were deadlocked at 2-2 after the first 15 minutes. "I was not real happy with the way they responded coming out in the first quarter. It's our first road trip and they were getting their legs under them. Then we scored 10 unanswered goals in the second, when we found ourselves."
"Ryan's efforts moving the ball around kick-started us a bit," McQuillan said. "(Mrakovich) and Ryan really started distributing the ball really well and setting up our guys in position for quality shots and they were able to capitalize."
Liberty junior attack Chris Armstrong (5G, 3A) turned in his best performance of the young season and senior attack Kurt Tobias (4G), sophomore midfielder Brett Bernardo (3G), and senior midfielder Derek Haywood (2G) were also recipients of many of Miller's and Mrakovich's assists.
Flames sophomore faceoff specialist Charles Fianko won 17 of 22 faceoffs, including all 10 in the second quarter.
"He set the tone for us," McQuillan said.
Fianko also led Liberty with 12 ground-ball pickups, many after shifting to long-stick midfielder in the second half, when McQuillan gave some teammates reps at faceoff.
The Flames (3-0, 1-0 SELC Northwest Region) led the Wildcats 12-2 at the half and 17-3 after the third quarter.
Sophomore midfielder Chad Moore, junior defensive mid Craig Darling, and freshman midfielder Peter Potecha each added a goal and senior midfielder Miguel Lozada and freshman attack Jimmy Page each had an assist to round out Liberty's scoring.
Junior goalie Ethan Kamholtz made 12 saves, but gave up one more goal than the maximum McQuillan likes to see the Flames allow in a contest.
"They had a little flurry late in the fourth, when the game was pretty much in hand," McQuillan said. "Defensively, we played pretty well. We let them score three goals in the fourth after we had pulled some guys."
Kentucky (1-6, 0-2) lost to Tennessee (2-3, 1-0) — Liberty's next opponent on Sunday at 1 p.m. — 13-10 Friday night in Knoxville, Tenn.
"Some games are a little more important than others, if (the opponent is) in our region," McQuillan said. "Both (Saturday's) game and (Sunday's) game basically determine who gets to go to the SELC playoffs (which start April 25 in John Creek, Ga.) There's five teams in our region and they only take the top two."
There are four regions in the SELC with eight teams advancing to the 16-team MCLA Division I National Championships, which start May 12 in Orange County, Calif.
The Volunteers are the only other team in the Northwest that has faced a regional opponent thus far.
"That's another one of those games that is a must-win for us," McQuillan said. "We're expecting to get a test (Sunday) and to get out of there with a win. The competition will only increase from there."
The Flames will leave next Saturday on their spring break road trip to Florida, where they will play four games in five days starting next Monday at Florida State (4-0).