Flames jump Georgia
Men’s lacrosse team hosts annual Midnight Mayhem event, defeats the Bulldogs
Across the Liberty University campus Friday, March 27, at midnight when students are normally in their rooms preparing for the nightly curfew, hundreds of dorm rooms laid vacant.
Typically boisterous halls were nearly silent as fans packed the East Campus lacrosse field bleachers for the third annual Midnight Mayhem men’s lacrosse blackout game.
Clad fully in black attire, students went out by the hundreds to create an energy-filled environment to watch the Flames (7-3) defeat the Bulldogs of the University of Georgia, 19-5.
Junior defenseman Brandt Grauss, who has seen the midnight game progress over the years, spoke to his favorite part of the entire night — the atmosphere the crowd created.
“Honestly, when you run by the crowd or do something good, you just feel it,” Grauss said. “You don’t just hear it, you feel it when you are on the field, and it gives you a boost to play.”
With the crowd yelling throughout the entire game, freshman attack Nick Lombardozzi acknowledged the advantage the Flames had over the Bulldogs (6-1).
“(W)hen they were trying to call out the plays, our home-field advantage just drowned (Georgia) out,” Lombardozzi said. “You could see a lot confusion coming from the other side of the field.”
Students flocked to the lacrosse field as early as 10 p.m. Friday evening in order to get their glow-in-the-dark bam-bam sticks and help build the home-field advantage Grauss and Lombardozzi look forward to each game.
To inform the student body and get the university excited about the midnight mayhem, Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said the marketing team for Liberty Club Sports began working in advance to prepare for the unique evening.
Game posters were displayed all over campus, including in Green Hall and the Reber-Thomas Dining Hall. Before Convocation Friday morning, players passed out handouts and temporary tattoos. Sodexo dining services even created a special menu for the evening.
“We really tried to make this event stand alone,” McQuillan said. “… It’s our marquee event of the year. Marketing really helped be able to do that.”
The Flames began the game strong against the Bulldogs, holding possession for the majority of the match and never letting Georgia gain a lead in the game.
Lombardozzi, freshman midfielder Sam King and junior midfielder Brett Bernardo paced the Flames in the first half.
Lombardozzi found the net twice in the first quarter to give the Flames the early 5-2 lead. King netted three goals and one assist in the second, and the Flames took the 10-4 advantage into halftime.
The second half was marked by superior defense from the Flames, as the Bulldogs went scoreless in the third. Three goals from junior attack Ryan Miller spurred the Flames six-goal run in the third quarter.
The Flames tacked on three more goals in the fourth to seal the 19-5 Midnight Mayhem victory.
McQuillan said the tradition of hosting a midnight lacrosse game began more than three years ago when the coaching staff was searching for ways to get the team’s name out to the student body while gaining continued fan support.
“I think a lot of people that come to a lacrosse game (and) … see it’s a good game … usually come back,” McQuillan said. “We were just trying to find ways to get people here. We figured, ‘Let’s take advantage of the fact that there is curfew and you can’t be anywhere else.’ They could either be in their dorm rooms or they could be at the lacrosse game.”
With Georgia Tech scheduled for next year’s midnight match, McQuillan said the plan is to continue the successful late-night tradition for years to come.
RODRIGUEZ is asports reporter.