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    May 12, 2023 Round Rock, Texas RSS |

    Prior to Thursday night’s 25-10 trouncing at the hands of Concordia University Irvine (Calif.) in the MCLA Division I National Championship semifinals in Round Rock, Texas, the worst setbacks Liberty University’s men’s lacrosse team had endured were eight-goal losses to former SELC foes Georgia Tech in 2016 and South Carolina in 2018.

    Liberty (15-4), which was making its fifth straight appearance in the 25th annual tournament since moving up from the Division II level in 2014, entered the field as the No. 3 seed, its highest to date in postseason play. It was anticipating a potential ALC Tournament final rematch with No. 1 Virginia Tech in Friday’s championship game after the Hokies advanced with a 15-9 victory over Chapman in Thursday’s first semifinal.

    But Concordia, seeded No. 7, had other plans, as it did in upsetting No. 2 Georgia Tech in Tuesday’s quarterfinals. The Golden Eagles (14-5), who are transitioning to the NCAA Division II ranks next season, eclipsed the MCLA DI Tournament record of 23 goals in a game as a team, paced by junior attack Chad McFadden, who set a new MCLA Championships standard with 10 goals.

    Newton and his fellow captains stand face to face with the Golden Eagles before Thursday night’s opening faceoff.

    “We did not anticipate or expect that type of performance, from either team,” Flames Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said. “We had played Concordia this year, and were able to get a victory (11-10 in overtime on April 7 in Lynchburg, Va., after rallying from three goals down). This was a very different Concordia team, and a very different Liberty team. Both teams weren’t the healthiest versions of themselves (before).”

    “We made a lot of mistakes early,” McQuillan added. “Good teams will make you pay, and I have not been a part of a game where that was more evident than this one. I was really impressed with their performance. They are a very formidable opponent for Virginia Tech (in Friday’s 8 p.m. EST final).”

    The Golden Eagles opened a 3-1 lead after the first quarter and Eric Obispo stretched it to 4-1 early in the second by dodging past Flames junior defender Bryn Jungles at the top of the box before finishing past junior goalie Eric Warnstrom at the 14:12 mark.

    Less than a minute later, Flames junior attack Braden Landry took advantage of a turnover on a pass back toward the midfield and charged downfield for a quick counterattack finish inside the left post. But Concordia answered even faster. Golden Eagles faceoff specialist Cade Poe won the ensuing draw before McFadden completed his hat trick with a sidearm finish from the right crease at the 12:59 mark, just seconds after hitting the left pipe with a shot from the same spot, for a 5-2 edge.

    Head Coach Kyle McQuillan (right) and Assistant Coach Jesse Glauser can only watch from the sideline as the Flames suffered the most lopsided setback in program history at the Division I level.

    Just 45 seconds afterwards, Tyler Collins bounced off a couple stick checks by Liberty senior defender Remy Newton at the top of the box before pivoting and threading a left-handed shot past Warnstrom, prompting a Liberty timeout.

    Concordia trapped the Flames on transition, forcing a turnover in their own end, before McFadden quickly capitalized with a low-to-high shot from the right crease for his fourth score, stretching the edge to 7-2.

    Graduate attack Cooper Branham stopped the Golden Eagles’ scoring surge 8:44 before halftime, ripping a shot from up top past goalie Daniel Yang to trim the deficit to 7-3. But Liberty couldn’t generate any momentum as Poe won the faceoff and Concordia worked the 80-second shot clock down before Nick Beeson converted as time expired with a running finish from the left wing for an 8-3 advantage.

    “They were able to dominate on the possessions because they were so successful on the faceoff dot,” McQuillan said. “We had four different guys try to create some opportunities — (freshman) Lance Bruno, (graduate) Ethan Bohannon, (freshman) Shane Supek, and even (junior middie) Keaton (Mohs).”

    But the Golden Eagles won nearly 85 percent of their faceoffs on the night.

    With 5:15 left in the half, Concordia midfielder Brett Masaki drove from the left endline and sent a crossing pass to attack Andrew Buckley who put it away from close range. Junior long-poled defender Jay Cloutier then took a long cross-field outlet pass and darted downfield for a fast-break finish, skipping in an overhand shot from the perimeter to give the Golden Eagles a commanding 10-3 lead with 4:22 left in the half.

    After another timeout, the Flames got one goal back when Branham received Mohs’ feed from behind the right post and tucked away a sidearm shot from a sharp angle on the left side at the 2:46 mark. However, Concordia struck right back after winning another faceoff when Yungte Young picked up a ground ball in his own territory and lofted a cross-field pass to long-stick midfielder Hunter Teston before he launched a long-range overhand shot past Warnstrom.

    Flames goalie Eric Warnstrom, flanked by freshman Tanner Wallen, managed 10 saves and allowed 24 goals on extremely high-percentage shots by the Golden Eagles.

    Flames senior attack Cameron Carter sprinted past Concordia defenders on the left wing and around the back of the cage before flipping it across to Mohs for a point-blank putaway from deep in the left crease, pulling Liberty to within 11-5 going into the break.

    “Facing a six-goal deficit at halftime, with the offense we have, I felt it was definitely a hole we could dig ourselves out of,” McQuillan said.

    But it was more of the same in the second half as McFadden picked up where he left off, gathering a deflected shot wide right of the cage and tucking in the putback at the 13:30 mark of the third quarter to extend the gap to 12-5.

    After a save by Yang on a shot by Carter, the Golden Eagles executed on the other end with Obispo feeding McFadden for a fast-break finish before he expanded the lead to 14-5 at the 11:25 mark by taking a pass and slinging in a running shot from the right wing.

    Mohs maneuvered around a defender and sent a quick entry pass to freshman attack Luke Branham for a catch-and-release finish from the left crease with 10:15 to play in the third.

    Yang made back-to-back saves of an initial shot and putback by Cooper Branham from close range on the left side, but he wouldn’t be denied on his next try, pocketing a shot after a spectacular spin move on the left wing, cutting the deficit to 14-7.

    However, McFadden took a pass from Masaki and unleashed a snipe of a shot from the right side into the top-left corner of the cage for his eighth goal of the game with 7:57 to play in the third.

    Just over a minute later, Mohs made a sensational running shot after ranging behind the cage. But after a holding call against Liberty gave the ball back to Concordia, McFadden finished his team’s fifth straight goal off a fast-break assist from Beeson, tying the MCLA Division I tournament record with his ninth goal.

    McFadden rifled his record-breaking 10th score to widen the gap to 17-8 with just over two minutes left in the third before Obispo finished into the top-right corner of the cage, extending Concordia’s advantage to 18-8.

    The Golden Eagles padded their lead with a man-up goal by Collins after taking a feed from Garrett Burns down low before freshman attack Jeremy Barnes accelerated past a Flames defender into the open right side of the box and converted a running shot on a cutback.

    Senior defender Luke Rafferty tries to stick check Concordia’s Jeremy Barnes.

    Mohs answered on the other end by taking the ball out from behind the cage before faking a shot and completing his hat trick with a phenomenal finish from the left side of the box that glanced off the right pipe and into the back of the net.

    Just under the 9:00 mark, McFadden assisted a one-timed finish by Buckley in the left crease before Liberty sophomore middie Will Geary, who scored Liberty’s only goal in the first quarter, rifled in his second, cutting the deficit to 21-10.

    It was all Golden Eagles from that point on, as they ended the game with four unanswered goals.

    “They were shooting really well, getting to their spots in transition, and just flying up and down the field,” McQuillan said. “We didn’t have our best performance, but I tried to tell the guys, which was difficult considering the circumstances, that this team took a big step forward. Obviously, we wanted more, and in the moment, they were still a little shellshocked and frustrated with how things ended.”

    McQuillan and his staff tried unsuccessfully Thursday night to arrange early flights to Lynchburg so that the Flames’ 10 seniors could make it back in time for Friday’s 7 p.m. Commencement main ceremony at Williams Stadium, with the earliest they could leave now being Saturday morning.

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer

    McQuillan leads the Flames and Golden Eagles in prayer after the season-ending setback.