Flames' attack catches fire early in rout of Central Florida
March 13, 2014 | Orlando, Fla.
For the first four away games of the season, Liberty University's men's lacrosse team was forced to dig itself out of an early pit, coming up short in its comeback bid at Florida State on Monday.
The Flames (6-1) got out to an early lead for a change in the third game of its spring break road swing through Florida, Thursday night at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, leading 4-0 after the first quarter and 9-2 at the half before pulling away for a 17-7 victory.
"It was a completely different story from the start," Liberty Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said. "From my perspective, it was a phenomenal game. We finally got the response we wanted to see from the guys. We came out aggressive early and controlled the whole game."
Playing with an early lead gave the Flames a chance to breathe and enjoy the balmy temperatures rather than letting their hosts see them sweat.
"We were able to respond and dictate the game rather than play catch-up and be rushed," McQuillan said. "We're a much better team when we're more relaxed and having fun. We were able to be in the driver's seat again and it was a good change of pace for us for sure."
Having Wednesday off helped recharge the Flames' physical batteries and mental faculties.
"Playing four games in five days is tough, but the guys were definitely up for the challenge," McQuillan said. "Physically, it was nice to have the day off, to turn off our brains and not worry about lacrosse. More than just a physical rest, they got a mental break and that was beneficial. They were making good decisions and their overall approach to the game was a lot more clear tonight."
All three of Liberty's attackmen — senior Kurt Tobias, junior Chris Armstrong, and sophomore Ryan Miller — scored four goals with Armstrong and Miller each adding three assists and Tobias distributing one. Sophomore midfielder Bryce Mrakovich added one goal and two assists, freshman midfielder Chad Moore had one goal and one assist, and sophomore midfielder Brett Bernardo and senior midfielders Derek Haywood and Miguel Lozada each netted one goal. Lozada scored his despite being hacked on the play to extend the lead to 11-4 early in the fourth quarter before Haywood racked up the 100th point of his career to make it 14-5.
The Flames were equally successful scoring out of their set attack and sparking their transition game.
"We were pretty balanced," McQuillan said. "A lot of our success early on came from perimeter shooting. They were playing really tight, collapsing in the box, and that gave our attackmen opportunities to shoot from the wings and they were able to find the net pretty often. We scored four or five goals on transition as well so we are getting back to the things that make us so dangerous."
Tobias finished a transition feed from Mrakovich to push the advantage to 16-6.
Junior goalie Ethan Kamholtz made 17 saves, including a couple clutch stops in the first few minutes.
"Ethan played his best game by far of this spring break trip," McQuillan said. "He made great saves right off the bat. When he came out as aggressively as he did, that allowed us to create separation. We were able to get a lot of good looks and obviously capitalize more than we have in our two previous games."
Liberty will conclude its four-game tour of Florida on Friday at 5 p.m. at the University of Florida in Gainesville.