Men’s lacrosse gears up for key matchups, keeps Ukrainian Lacrosse Federation players in prayer
Liberty University’s men’s lacrosse team, which slipped one spot to No. 5 in this week’s MCLA Division I Coaches Poll, has two top-10 matchups on tap next week at the Liberty Lacrosse Fields, with No. 8 Florida visiting on Monday at 7 p.m. and No. 2 Clemson in town for a rematch of last year’s inaugural ALC Tournament Championship game on Friday at 7 p.m.
Like the Flames (3-0), who are coming off back-to-back wins over ALC North Region rivals Pittsburgh (18-10) and West Virginia (14-6), the Gators (6-0) and Tigers (7-0) are undefeated, with Clemson taking the place of then No. 2 Georgia Tech after its 15-8 upset on Saturday.
This Saturday at 1 p.m., Liberty plays its first road contest at ALC South member North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C.
Aside from its on-the-field action, members of the Flames and their coaching staff have had their hearts stirred and minds focused on the situation in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion last week.
Head Coach Kyle McQuillan and Assistant Coach Mike Zumpano hosted Vova Demediuk, president of the Ukrainian Lacrosse Federation and an international leader for FCA Lacrosse, in early July last year. They sent him home with 35-40 helmets formerly used by the Flames to provide protection for the Ukrainian national team, which joined the FIL in 2017.
“We held an impromptu (virtual) prayer meeting early last week and (Demediuk) jumped on the call along with a bunch of leaders from FCA Lacrosse,” Zumpano said. “He was still in the country then — he lives in a suburb of Kyiv — but we got a very brief voice message back on Wednesday of last week saying he had to leave to another area where he has relatives and they have pretty much stopped their (FCA Lacrosse) ministry.”
They had planned to send the national team to Portugal for an FIL event there last weekend, but their flights were canceled due to the conflict with Russia.
“He said the city (Kyiv) is pretty war-torn and almost uninhabitable now, and he asked for prayers for their people, that God would bring His peace to them,” Zumpano said. “He also asked that we pray for the Russian people, essentially praying for his enemies, that God would have mercy on them and that they wouldn’t be persecuted, but be able to hear the Gospel through this whole ordeal.”
Zumpano met Demediuk during the 2018 FIL World Championships in Netanya, Israel, where FCA Lacrosse representatives gathered for witnessing opportunities and to help prepare teams for tournament play.
Demediuk’s Ukrainian players, coached by FCA Lacrosse Director Dan Britton, whose son, Eli, and nephew, Caleb, played for the Flames in recent years, had the opportunity to prepare the Russia National team for its next match back then.
“I speak Russian so after our scrimmage, I could share why we were in Israel (with FCA Lacrosse), to pray for and bless a lot of teams in the championships,” Demediuk said during his July visit to Liberty. “When we prayed, it was special. I told them I hate what Russia does (invading Ukraine in 2014), but I love them as people and the Holy Spirit really touched their hearts.”
Starting with last Saturday’s ALC opener against Pitt, with Ukrainian flag colors lighting up the Freedom Tower in the background, the Flames held a moment of silence prior to the playing of the national anthem.
“We will be offering moments of silent prayer at beginning of games for the rest of the season for all of our home games,” Zumpano said, noting that Britton and other FCA ministry leaders have been working to help send aid, prayers, and supplies that the Ukrainian players and their families might need.
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video by Flames Central