Flames Beat Mountaineers in Season’s First Home Game
Liberty men’s lacrosse triumphantly set the tone as they defeated West Virginia University 18-5 in their first home game of the spring season Saturday, March 3. Liberty paced the game offensively, as three Flames recorded hat tricks on the day.
“Obviously anytime you have that many points on the board and you take a look at the stat sheet, there are a lot of points all over the place, so today was good,” head coach Kyle McQuillan said. “I think as long as we can do the same thing against high level opponents, then that’s when it’s gonna really matter.”
Sophomore midfielder Elliot Carter got the scoring started early, scoring just 46 seconds into the game. Less than five minutes later, he scored again to bring the Flames to an early 2-0 lead.
The defensive aggression started early and occurred often, as midfielder Derrick Esh hit a Mountaineer player and forced a turnover, setting the tone early. Attack Austin Aguilar scored at the 7:20 mark right after a Mountaineer penalty.
Aguilar also won 13 of his 15 face-offs of the day, including all six first quarter face-offs. His aggression and success in the face-off X helped Liberty grab momentum and gain an early lead.
“Today he did really well,” McQuillan said. “He came off, unfortunately, we had a tough weekend last weekend against South Carolina at the face-off X, so today it was just good to be able to see him respond well. He was just quicker at the end of the day.”
At the 5:58 mark in the first, Esh made it a 4-0 game off the feed from Mateo Zumpano from behind the net. The Mountaineers scored once in the first quarter, netting a goal with an extra attacker after a Flames penalty, making it a 4-1 Flames lead after one quarter of play.
The first quarter was also the beginning of what wound up being a really well-played game for the two Liberty goalies. They shared time in the game, with both Ryan Reynolds and Brayden Harriman making stops throughout the entire game.
“Both goalies played well,” McQuillan said. “Anytime you hold a team to five points or less is good, but we definitely gave them a few more opportunities than we wanted to with some man-up opportunities and a few other things, but goaltending was definitely a strength.”
One minute into the second quarter, Esh scored again off an assist from Gregory, who had hit a West Virginia player who was trying to steal the ball from him. Gregory then recorded another assist on sophomore attacker Caleb Britton’s first goal of the game at the 12:47 mark, as he made a really nice play to score. Britton then scored his second and third goals at 7:32 and 5:24, both assisted by mid-fielder Chase Wright.
Gregory scored his first goal at the 4:13 mark off a nice assist from freshman midfielder William Zoeller. Sophomore attacker Elijah Britton then scored on the assist from senior midfielder Brett Miller, making it 10-1 Flames at the half.
Elliot scored his hat trick goal less than three minutes into the third with an assist from Gregory after a West Virginia penalty. West Virginia responded with a goal of their own after a Flames offsides penalty, but Liberty responded with a nice move made by Esh on his way to score a goal at 10:45 in the third with an assist from sophomore attacker Caleb Britton. That was underwhelming compared to the sick move made by Esh to score his goal at 10:45 in the third with an assist from Britton.
Going into the fourth quarter, Liberty let off the gas on defense and did not put much of an attack together on offense.
“I was happier with the first half than the second,” McQuillan said. “It was difficult to keep everybody as engaged as I would have liked, but overall we did what we needed to do, and I thought the guys controlled the game really well.
West Virginia put together two goals in a row, making it a 16-4 game partway through the fourth. Elliot scored once again, this time on an assist from defenseman Reagan Prichett. Sophomore attacker Elijah Britton scored his second goal of the game with just a few minutes left, with an assist from Zoeller.
“We knew (guys like Gregory, Elliot and Caleb Britton) would have some success today,” McQuillan said. “We knew that we had some matchups, obviously, and those guys were gonna get some opportunities. I thought they did exactly what we needed them to do.”
The Mountaineers scored one more very late goal to bring the score to 18-5 at the end of the fourth quarter.
McQuillan said he hopes this win will lead to more success throughout the season as they get into the heart of their season, with two top 10 teams coming to Liberty beginning March 9.
“I know that in games coming up, we’ve got a really tough test with both Colorado and Arizona State, both ranked teams in the top 10 in the country, so it’s gonna be a lot more difficult and the defensive style and play that we’re gonna see is gonna be a couple levels up,” McQuillan said.
Liberty has fifth-ranked Colorado on the slate Friday, March 9 at 6 p.m. and sixth ranked Arizona State Saturday March 10, at 8 p.m. on the Liberty University Lacrosse Fields March 9 and 10.