The goal will stay the same despite a new division
The Liberty men’s lacrosse team will make its Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association (MCLA) Division I (DI) debut Feb. 21 ranked eighth in the South Eastern Lacrosse Conference (SELC) per preseason polls released Jan. 2.
The Flames finished the 2012-13 season with an overall record of 18-2, winning the SELC Division II (DII) Championship and narrowly missing the MCLA DII championship game in a one-point overtime loss to defending champion University of St. Thomas.
Although they were pleased with the No. 8 slot, both Head Coach Kyle McQuillan and his players expressed their intentions to exceed their past successes.
“I’m happy with where we’re at, but I think we’re not content with being the No. 8 team in the SELC,” McQuillan said. “We want to be the No. 1 (team), and on a larger scale, we want to be ranked within the top 25 in the country. But I think it’s a good place to start.”
Senior long-stick midfielder Mike Zumpano, one of four team captains, agreed with his coach.
“We feel good about (the ranking), because we’ve always been a team that has kind of enjoyed the underdog role, and there’s room for improvement and room to move up,” Zumpano said. “So we’re excited about that.”
Other teammates are not as satisfied with their ranking and look to prove themselves on the field.
“I think we’re underrated,” senior attackman and fellow captain Kurt Tobias said, “But then again we haven’t played in DI yet, so they don’t necessarily know what we’re capable of. It’s good, better to be the underdog and work our way up.”
In order to do so, the Flames must win on a new stage against unfamiliar opponents. Both team and coach, therefore, are much less concerned with preseason numbers than their fast-approaching season.
“You kind of have to start over, (and) the scouting reports are a little bit more bare because you haven’t seen a lot of these teams,” McQuillan said. “So we just want to make sure that we’re ready. That’s the biggest thing — preparation. The best team will come out on top, and we just want to make sure we’ve done everything we can to be that team.”
The coach’s straightforward attitude naturally leads the Flames to a simple game plan.
“We’re just going to stick to our strengths and make adjustments as we go along,” Zumpano said. “A lot of things — studying film, stuff like that — will probably help, but for the most part, I think it’s just about knowing who we are and what we’re capable of as a team.”
Topping the list of the unique strengths the Flames plan to use this season is the team’s significant depth.
“We’ve always been a very good team, in terms of our starting guys having always been great players, but we’ve sometimes been shallow,” McQuillan said. “I think this season, teams will see that we’ve got not just one and two, but potentially three and four lines of guys that are very good lacrosse players. Our midfield in particular I think is going to be pretty spectacular.”
The Flames first match will be agaisnt the Wake Forest University Demon Deacons.
“I think we were credited with what we were able to accomplish in the last three seasons, but at the end of the day, it’s just a number,” McQuillan said. “We have a lot to prove. We’ve got a lot at stake. We just want to make sure that we’re ready.”