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    March 19, 2022 Philadelphia, Pa. RSS |


    After spending Thursday in Philadelphia doing touristy things such as seeing the Liberty Bell, running up the steps that Sylvester Stallone climbed in the movie “Rocky,” and eating cheesesteaks at a restaurant in Reading Terminal Market owned by the family of former midfielder Chris Mickel, Liberty University’s men’s lacrosse team came game ready for Friday night’s first-ever showdown with Temple University.

    The fourth-ranked Flames (7-1) outscored the new Atlantic Lacrosse Conference (ALC) North Region rival Owls 7-3 in the second quarter and 7-2 in the third to pull away for a 19-8 victory, the highlight of their Spring Break road trip.

    “That was the message we had for the guys before the game,” Liberty Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said. “We’ve been here for a couple days, enjoyed a break from lacrosse, and spent time with each other. Now, it is time to refocus and I thought the guys did a good job of taking care of business. It’s been a lot of fun being up here in Philly and spending our Spring Break here and it’s even better to cap it off with a win.”

    Liberty senior middie Ryan O’Connor holds the ball away from a Temple defender trying to swipe it from him with his stick.

    Temple, former members of the Continental Lacrosse Conference, joined the ALC after not playing last season due to COVID-19 restrictions. The game was actually played at Drexel University, which has an NCAA Division I program.

    “It was a really cool venue right downtown in Philly,” McQuillan said. “There were a lot of firetrucks and sirens, and a lot of fans, including Liberty parents making the trip or alumni from around the area.”

    Flames senior midfielder Thomas Pinel, a natural left-handed shooter, was the offensive player of the game for the Flames, netting six goals and distributing two assists. Fellow midfielders Keaton Mohs, a sophomore, and senior Cameron Carter also had productive nights with three goals and two assists apiece, matching the totals of senior attack Cooper Branham. Graduate attack Carter Elliott added two goals and two assists.  Senior middie Ryan O’Connor had one goal and one assist, sophomore Ryan Merbach netted one goal and freshman Will Geary had one assist.

    Liberty senior middies Cole Jankowsky and Ethan Bohannon won 17 out of 29 faceoffs and graduate goalie Ryan Reynolds made six saves through three quarters before sophomore backup Eric Warnstrom made two saves and pitched a shutout in the fourth quarter to stay unscored upon in two appearances this season.

    The Flames were without one of their faceoff specialists, junior Shane Reynolds who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in last Friday night’s home loss to Clemson. He joins an injured reserve list that now numbers eight players, leaving their active roster at 30.

    “We have a handful of guys who we are hoping to get back, but we are definitely struggling with injuries this season,” McQuillan said. “Temple probably had 45-50 players on its sideline. We know we’re always going to be one of the smaller rosters, but we focus time and energy on a smaller group of guys, and being lean and mean. We can still be very effective.”

    Senior middie Thomas Pinel was the Flames’ offensive catalyst with six goals and two assists.

    “That’s a testament to our depth,” he added. “Temple threw a lot at us in terms of man-to-man and zone defenses. That was one of our best nights offensively in terms of how we were able to move the ball and have a lot of production from different guys.”

    Liberty has a week to re-adjust to classes and practices before welcoming Alabama next Friday for another first-time meeting, on its Senior night at 7 p.m. at the Liberty Lacrosse Fields.

    “Alabama’s going to come in looking for an opportunity to knock off a top-five team,” McQuillan said.  “Then we’ve got a couple more games here, with UConn (at 5 p.m. April 2) and top-ranked BYU (Midnight Mayhem on April 8), before ending our regular season at Virginia Tech, another top-10 team, so we are going to find out in the next few weeks where we stand.”

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer

    Liberty and Temple players exchange post-game handshakes with Philadelphia’s Independence Hall in the background.