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    October 29, 2022 Blacksburg, Va. RSS |

    Defending Atlantic Lacrosse Conference (ALC) tournament champion Virginia Tech demonstrated that it is the legitimate favorite to defend its title next spring on Saturday, when it hosted Liberty University’s men’s lacrosse team and pulled away for a 16-7 victory at Virginian Marching Field in the shadow of Lane Stadium.

    “We did not play well today and we are not happy with our play,” Flames Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said. “We came out and scored first and at halftime, we were down 9-5 so the game was still within reach. The second half was uncharacteristic on our part as we made a lot of undisciplined mistakes.”

    He said the end result should serve as a call to action for the team as it heads into the winter months.

    “It’s Fall Ball, and we can use the excuse that we are still trying to develop our team, but this was not the outcome or the effort that we anticipated,” McQuillan said. “This was our last on-field competitive lacrosse game, but we will continue to practice, and work out together. We will have time to go through film and identify and focus on areas that we need to continue to be working on, and hopefully we’ll use it to progress toward the spring.”

    Improvement will be needed in all phases of the game for the Flames, who endured an extended scoring drought in the second half, when they were outscored, 7-2.

    Flames freshman attack Daniel Newman shields a Virginia Tech player from the ball as he drives upfield.

    “Early on, we did a better job of valuing possessions,” McQuillan said. “We went through a stretch where didn’t score in the second half, where we did not perform well on either side of the ball, and definitely not on the offensive side. We were making a lot of mistakes, not taking care of possessions, committing a lot of turnovers and making bad passes. When you are only scoring seven goals, there is definitely something wrong, because we’ve got the offensive ability and the skillset and the talent to score much more than that. We weren’t able to help our defense by keeping the game close or letting them feel like we were in that game.”

    The Hokies returned a larger percentage of their starters from last season and have added more weapons to the mix.

    “It was interesting to see how Virginia Tech has reloaded,” McQuillan said. “They are definitely a team we need to contend with and be much better prepared for in the spring as they defend their ALC conference championship. They had new faces at a few key positions, like goalie, similar to us, but they had quite a few players returning, new faces and transfers on the offensive side of the ball.”

    He said Virginia Tech exploited Liberty’s weaknesses, especially in the second half.

    “They made us pay in a lot of ways,” McQuillan said. “We didn’t run our special teams very cleanly, as our rides and clears were (ineffective). We allowed Virginia Tech to score in transition, and by settling the ball and working its offense. It has some talented players and they kind of exposed us on defense as well, so we have a lot a lot of work to do on all facets.”

    Playing away from the friendly confines of the Liberty Lacrosse Fields will be something the Flames must adjust to this spring, when they are planning to travel extensively.

    “We will have quite a bit of travel this year with trips to Utah, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Pittsburgh,” McQuillan said, noting there is also potential for a return trip to Round Rock, Texas, for the MCLA Division I National Championships. “The entire month of March will be spent on the road, so we need to be used to being journeymen and come back with some important victories.”

    Junior goalie Eric Warnstrom makes a save between senior defender Ryan O’Connor (1) and long-stick midfielder Luke Rafferty (10).

    He said the Flames first away test did not go according to plan.

    “This was our first road trip, and though we were playing a game away from home, a trip to Blacksburg is not too difficult to make,” McQuillan said. “We know Virginia Tech will travel to us in the spring, and we will have to be much better prepared as players and coaches.”

    Unlike most previous seasons, when the Flames and Hokies have met in the regular-season finale with top seeding for the conference tournament on the line, Liberty will host Virginia Tech in the third game of the 2023 spring season on Feb. 18.

    “There will be a different vibe this year,” McQuillan said. “Talking with Virginia Tech, in building our schedules, it is obviously a valuable rivalry, but with them not being in our (ALC North) Region, the game doesn’t have the same influence on alignment for the conference playoffs, and since it is a team that we have a pretty good chance of seeing in the tournament, we thought we would play them early in the year and get a good test on the front end of our schedule before potentially playing them again at the end of the year in the playoffs.”

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer