Flames ranked No. 18 in MCLA DI Preseason Coaches' Poll
February 2, 2018 | Lynchburg, Va.
Liberty University's men's lacrosse team is ranked No. 18 in the MCLA Division I Preseason Coaches' Poll, released this week.
"It's not a huge surprise," Flames Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said of the Flames descending two positions from their final 2017 ranking at No. 16. "We always drop a couple spots because of some of the excitement around some programs. As long as we're in the top 25, you're close enough to get a shot to move into the top 10 and we've got a schedule that is competitive enough for us to be able to do that."
Liberty will play five teams ranked in the preseason poll — No. 6 Colorado and No. 7 Arizona State on March 9-10, respectively, at the Liberty Lacrosse Fields; No. 19 UConn and No. 13 Michigan State on March 23 and 24, respectively, at the Battle of Baltimore over Spring Break; and No. 19 SELC Northwest Region rival Virginia Tech in the regular-season showdown at home on April 13.
Only 16 teams qualify for the MCLA DI National Championships, set for May 7-13 at the Salt Lake City Regional Athletic Complex, where for the first time all four rounds of that event and the MCLA DII National Championships will take place at the same location.
McQuillan noted that the MCLA DI coaches poll has Virginia Tech, a team the Flames lost to in triple overtime last spring before edging in a defensive duel to cap its fall schedule, Nov. 3 in Blacksburg, Va. ranked well ahead of Liberty and Florida State, a team Liberty beat twice last season, debuting at No. 11.
"I thought we would have at least closed the gap, rather than have the gap widened, but we just use it as fuel," he said. "I post these things in the locker room for the guys and it rattles them a little bit, the fact that we weren't even in the other two top-20s and we continue to drop in this one. I just tell them that if you want it to change, you've got to prove it on the field."
Liberty can clinch its first MCLA DI national championship tournament autobid by winning the April 20-22 SELC DI Tournament in Atlanta, Ga. The SELC has become increasingly competitive with No. 5 Georgia Tech, a national semifinalist last season, joining Virginia Tech, FSU, and the Flames in the MCLA DI Preseason Coaches Poll.
Though again young with only one senior on the roster this season, McQuillan believes this year's squad will be among the strongest and deepest teams Liberty has ever fielded.
"Our freshman class was a huge benefit and a positive for us last year and they've got another year of experience and they're starting to develop and add to our culture and they're going to have another really, really strong year," McQuillan said. "We've got great depth, we added a number of spots to the roster and we had a transfer come in over (Christmas) Break, Billy Zoeller from NCAA Division III Gettysburg College, a midfielder who I think is going to be a big part of our offense this year. So we're looking forward to getting the season started."
The Flames are gearing up for their season-opening road trip to SELC rivals Tennessee on Feb. 23 and South Carolina on Feb. 25.