Flames men's lacrosse tripped up by Hokies in triple OT
April 15, 2017 | Blacksburg, Va.
A classic showdown between in-state rivals Virginia Tech, ranked No. 12 in the MCLA Division I coaches poll, and No. 19 Liberty University's men's lacrosse team required three overtime periods to determine a winner in Saturday night's regular-season finale, played at Thompson Field in Blacksburg, Va.
The Hokies (13-3), who suffered back-to-back double-overtime losses at No. 2 Grand Canyon (6-5 on March 4) and No. 8 Arizona State (10-9 on March 6) nearly capitalized on a last-second shot by Ryan Cleary to end the second overtime. They won the ensuing faceoff and netted the sudden-death game-winner on a point-blank underhand shot off a catch and cut from the left endline just nine seconds later for a dramatic 14-13 victory.
"Going three overtimes was definitely exhausting," Flames Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said. "I don't remember the last time we even went to one. But it was a great showing and I've got nothing but positive things to say. The guys battled, and we were in it from beginning to end. This one hurts and one we wish we could get it back, but Virginia Tech is a great team, and to play them on the road on their senior night, our guys played exceptionally well and showed we're ready for the SELC Tournament."
Late in the fourth quarter, the Flames (6-6) worked the clock down under 30 seconds before having to shoot due to a stalling warning by the officials and Hokies goalie Bryan Cooper made a clutch save, as he did on back-to-back shots early in the first four-minute OT.
It was the fourth season in a row — ever since Liberty moved up to the Division I level and joined Virginia Tech in the SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference's Northwest Region — that the matchup determined the regional champion and No. 1 seed going into next weekend's SELC tournament near Atlanta. As the No. 2 seed out of the Northwest, the Flames will face 11th-ranked Florida State — a team they upset on March 31 at home — in Friday's first round.
"We've been fortunate enough to not only win at home every time we've played Florida State, but also the two times we've met them in the playoffs as well," McQuillan said.
Against Virginia Tech, Liberty used five different players to take faceoffs — senior midfielder Jacob Campbell, freshman midfielder Jimmy Fowler, sophomore midfielder Eric Masters, freshman defender Grayson Rhyne, and sophomore attack Sam Gregory, who was the only one to experience success, winning four of his six.
"The biggest failure as a team was the faceoff game," McQuillan said. "They had a good faceoff guy and he won the last one that set up the fast break that led to the winning goal. We knew we were going to have our hands full, but it was a good opportunity to experiment before the playoffs."
Gregory was one of three Flames to net a hat trick in scoring, along with freshman midfielders Derrick Esh and Carter Elliott. Senior attack Nick Lombardozzi and freshman attack Caleb Britton added two goals each, with Britton distributing two assists, and freshman midfielder Erik Arvesen added a goal and three assists.
Freshman goalie Ryan Reynolds made 10 saves, for a save percentage just over 40, below his average of just under 60.
"As game went on, he got better and better," McQuillan said. "He continued to battle through it and gave us a chance to win tonight."
Attackman Sullivan Warner got Virginia Tech on the scoreboard just 1:30 after the opening faceoff before Lombardozzi tied it at 1-1 with a sharp-angled, top-shelf shot from the right side past Cooper 1:30 later.
The Flames seized a 2-1 lead on an aggressive drive toward the net but Virginia Tech tied it back up a minute later on a perimeter shot from up top that got past Reynolds before Warner put the Hokies back on top a minute later on a rebound putback.
At the 7:04 mark, Virginia Tech went up 4-2 with a running shot from the left side into the upper netting.
Exactly four minutes into the second quarter, Elliott cut the deficit to 4-3 by receiving a pass back on the left side and ripping a shot past Cooper. Hokies midfielder Danny Riley responded 30 seconds later, scoring from the right side to put Virginia Tech up 5-3, before pushing the Hokies' advantage to three goals with a bounce shot from the top of the box at the 7:30 mark.
After the Flames turned the ball over on offense, Gregory intercepted a clearing pass and fired a shot into an open net to cut it to 6-4 with 6:45 left in the first half. At the 4:17 mark, after Esh picked up a loose ball, he found Gregory cutting on the right side for a quick finish, making it a 6-5 contest. The Flames couldn't capitalize on a man-up situation, but after a time out, netted the equalizer with 2:46 remaining in the half.
Sophomore defender Ean White forced a turnover and started a Liberty fast break 30 seconds later before Gregory fueled the Flames to a 7-6 edge with just over 1:45 left in the half.
Another Virginia Tech turnover gave Liberty possession for the final minute and a half, the last 50 seconds with a man advantage. However, Warner tied it up for the Hokies on a fast-break counterattack after Gregory had what appeared to be his fourth goal of the first half called back due to a man in the crease.
"Not only did that cost us a goal, but they were able to score on a fast break right after that so it was a two-goal swing," McQuillan said.
Just over a minute in the second half, Britton lifted Liberty to an 8-7 edge with a shot that just trickled past Cooper before Gregory made it 9-7 with a perimeter shot from the top left side of the box. Both goalies made clutch saves before the Flames came up with a loose ball and finished with a driving shot for a 10-7 lead with 7:45 left in the third quarter.
After the teams traded goals, the Hokies went on to score the next five goals unanswered, tying it at 11-11 with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter before Michael Hopkins finished a fast-break feed from Warner to give them a 12-11 lead. Riley penetrated through traffic down the middle to extend the Virginia Tech advantage to 13-11 with 8:11 to go before a turnaround shot from the right side brought Liberty back within 13-12 just over 30 seconds later before tying it up at the 6:44 mark.
That's how the game remained for the next 15 minutes before the Hokies' dramatic game-winner, making for a much better showing overall for the Flames than their Nov. 4 scrimmage against Virginia Tech, a 14-4 setback.