Gators chomped

The Liberty University men’s lacrosse team continued its home dominance with a 18-6 victory over the Florida Gators in the teams annual “Midnight Madness” game Friday April 1.

More than 4,000 fans were in attendance, finding seats all around the perimeter of the lacrosse field. Fans started pilling in before 11 p.m, but due to travel issues with the Gators, whose bus pulled up at 12:31 a.m., the game did not officially start until 12:49 a.m.

“Honestly, we were a little ticked off,” senior midfielder Bryce Mrakovich said. “We just used that to our advantage and tried to play level headed.”


Florida was given 10 minutes to warm-up as soon as they stepped off of the bus. Players were stretching and getting their equipment on when the starting lineups were being called out.

“I think our guys did a fantastic job of staying level headed,” Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said. “I think it helped that we had a couple thousand people here and nobody bailed on us. I told the guys that I don’t care if this game starts at 1 a.m. we’re getting this game in.”

The Flames wasted no time scoring, putting the first points on the board less than two minutes into the game. Freshman attacker Sam Gregory scored the first two goals for the Flames. The first of which came off of a Gator turnover at midfield that the Flames turned into a fast break attack. Mrakovich found Gregory for the score. Gregory did all the work on the second goal, running around the goal for a wrap around finish.

At the end of the first quarter, the Flames had a commanding 9-0 lead. Their fast pace attack slightly declined in the second quarter with the Flames only adding five goals, four of which came from the stick of sophomore attacker Nick Valentine giving him a hat trick in the second quarter alone. Liberty went into halftime with a 14-0 lead.

vision — Flames senior Chad Moore looks upfield for a pass against the Gators. Photo credit: Michela Diddle

Vision — Flames senior Chad Moore looks upfield for a pass against the Gators. Photo credit: Michela Diddle

“The guys did exactly what we asked them to do,” McQuillan said.

Florida was able to add a few goals in the second half, but never came within 10 points of the Flames in the second half.

The Liberty scoring attack was headed by Valentine who finished with six goals, Mrakovich added two goals and five assists, senior attacker Ryan Miller scored two goals and tallied four assists and senior midfielder Brett Bernardo and Gregory each scored two as well.

“Florida has had some success in the SELC so there were some question marks as there was not a lot of competition that we had both played,” McQuillan said.

Liberty will take on Tennessee Saturday, April 9 at 1 p.m. and finish the season at home against rival Virginia Tech Friday, April 15 at 7 p.m. at home.

“We have not lost at home in four years,” McQuillan said. “To be able to try and defend that and have the number one seed potentially on the line in that final game will be huge.”

A win against Tennessee would lock up a SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference (SELC) playoff spot for the Flames and make their game against the Hokies on Senior Night even more crucial. If the Flames beat the Volunteers the winner of the in-state matchup with Virginia Tech would likely take the conference’s regular-season title.

Day is a sports reporter.

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