Flames lax wins SELC title

Last season, the Liberty men’s lacrosse team reached the semifinals of the Southeastern Lacrosse Conference (SELC) tournament, losing to Elon, 13-12. This year, the Flames (16-1, 4-0 SELC) reached the SELC Championship game for the first time, defeating Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) (8-6, 2-1 SELC), 9-5.

Clutch — Senior midfielder Joe Gargiulo scored 16 goals in three games during the SELC tournament. Photo credit: Courtney Russo

In their first meeting this season, Liberty defeated SCAD, 14-8.

“We played well,” Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said. “We won the tournament, and I am proud of my team for hanging tough. We played three games in three days, which was difficult, but we made it through.”

While attackers Ryan Miller and Kurt Tobias helped to anchor the offense throughout the year, midfielder Joe Gargiulo put together a career tournament, leading the Flames in scoring every game of the

Against SCAD, Garguilo led the Flames with four goals, followed by Tobias with two. Miller and midfielders Bryce Mrakovich and Derek Haywood each had a goal apiece. Kamholtz also had 14 saves at the net.

“Joe had a great tournament,” McQuillan said. “If we had to pick an MVP it would be Joe, but we had contributions from everyone throughout in this tournament and throughout the year. Everyone played well.”

The Flames went 13-1 in the regular season, earning a No. 1 seed in the SELC tournament in Johns Creek, Ga. However, their journey was a
tough one.

In the first round, Liberty played the No. 6 Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish, Friday, April 26 (10-2, 2-1 SELC). The only Sailfish loss came against SELC runner up SCAD, 11-9.

“We had a tough beginning to the tournament,” McQuillan said. “Going up against the No. 6 team (Palm Beach Atlantic) in the country first

was not an easy task.”

Gargiulo had a career game, leading the Flames with seven goals and helping them edge out the Sailfish for a 21-17 victory. Attack Kurt Tobias added five goals and four assists. Midfielder Derek Haywood chipped in, scoring four and contributing three assists.

“I was in the right place at the right time, and my teammates found me,” Gargiulo said.

Seventeen goals were the most the Flames had given up all year.

“We were nervous,” goalie Ethan Kamholtz said. “Our minds weren’t right. It was more of an offensive battle. Both teams have high-powered offenses and it showed.”

Kamholtz and the Flames defense allowed only 11 goals in the final two games of the tournament.

“It was confidence game for us,” McQuillan said. “Palm Beach Atlantic offensively is a powerhouse, but we were able to make a couple more stops than they were.”

Liberty defeated Emory College (6-4, 3-1 SELC) 10-6 in the semifinals on the road to its first appearance in the SELC Championship game.

“After the Emory game, we focused more, and we went into the game against SCAD prepared,” Kamholtz said. “SCAD is a great team and we always have to play our best against them.”

Kamholtz, Miller, Mrakovich and long stick midfielder Mike Zumpano were named to the SELC All-conference first team.

Miller was also named the SELC rookie of the year, finishing the season with 58 goals and 33 assists.

Tobias and defenseman Nathan Lowmaster were named to the SELC All-conference second team.

Liberty will play in the Division II National Championships in Greenville, S. C., May 13-18.

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