The Liberty Flames men’s lacrosse team routed two Lynchburg area universities in their third annual Liberty Lacrosse Tournament, Saturday Oct. 27.
The Flames outscored Lynchburg College and Southern Virginia University by a total of 25-5, beating the LC Hornets 13-1 and later overpowering the SVU Knights 18-4.
“It was a good opportunity for us to put into practice a lot of new things we have been working on,” Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said. “We would like for it to be more competitive, but there are a few things we are able to learn from … At the end of the day, it was a good learning experience for us.”
The Flames strong defensive performance was key in both victories in the double-header. Sophomore goalie Ethan Kamholtz tallied multiple saves and allowed only one goal in his first start with the Flames.
“I thought we played well,” Kamholtz said. “It’s fall ball, so there are a lot of things we can work on. I have a lot to work on myself. It’s a team effort. I do not play well if my defense doesn’t play well, and I thought our defense did outstanding today.”
In the first game against the Hornets, the Flames defense forced Lynchburg College into wild and erratic shots on goal. This helped the Liberty offense, which scored in bunches. Consistent ball movement was essential in keeping the Hornets defense off balance. Within the first five minutes of the first quarter, the Flames scored four goals. By halftime, Liberty led 8-0.
“We just kept up pressure and kept intimidating them,” midfielder Miguel Lozada said. “We kept them to only taking shots to the outside. That is what happens when an offense cannot penetrate our defense.”
This trend continued in the second half as the Flames scored four more goals to end the game. Junior midfielders Derek Haywood and Lozada handled the scoring load. Junior attacker Kurt Tobias and freshman Ryan Miller also contributed multiple goals.
Kamholtz had 11 saves and allowed his only goal in the tournament with 14:14 left in the third period.
“I wish we would’ve had a shutout,” Haywood said. “There are a lot of good things to take away from this game. The offense moved the ball like we were supposed to, and the defense did their job. It was a good first performance and a good team effort.”
Against SVU in the second half of its double-header, the Flames exploited a major flaw in the Knights defense. Liberty took advantage of below-average play at goal and porous defense throughout the entire game.
Tobias and sophomore attacker John Farris connected within the first minute of the game and later at the 9:30 mark in the first period. Both Tobias and Farris stayed active in the first period and they provided goals and assists. Miller also added a couple of goals, widening the margin to an 11-0 lead by halftime. Farris finished the game with four goals and one assist, while Tobias scored once and had five assists.
The Knights had trouble advancing the ball against the Flames starters. On multiple occasions, their passes were picked off, which converted into Liberty goals.
By the beginning of the second half, McQuillan rested most of his starters, including Kamholtz, who had another impressive showing in goal. The Knights made a change at goalie as well, but to no avail.
“Ethan is a diamond in the rough,” McQuillan said. “He’s played some college lacrosse out in Oregon and had an opportunity coaching. By chance, his sister is a teacher here, and it got him thinking about Liberty. We’ve been in contact with him for the last two years. He grew up in upstate New York and has lacrosse in his blood. He is just an athlete. We are expecting big things from him this upcoming season.”
Even with those changes, the Flames were able to stay aggressive. Midfielders freshman Bryce Mrakovich and sophomore Craig Darling contributed to the scoring load for the majority of the second half. Junior midfielder Skyler Sipe also chipped in with a goal.
“We did well,” Sipe said. “It felt good to knock some rust off. It helped us work on our offense and get our timing down. Overall, it was a successful tournament.”
While Liberty had an impressive showing in the annual tournament, its ability to work younger talent in with veteran leadership will determine the success of the Flames.
“Our freshmen have fulfilled huge gaps on the team — not just filling in just backup roles, but they are starting,” Captain Nathan Lowmaster said. “Half of our starting squad is freshman, and they are performing beyond expectation. They are more then what we asked for this year.”
The Flames begin their regular season in February when they host the Citadel College Bulldogs at the Liberty Lacrosse Fields.