Men’s lacrosse gears up to defend ALC Tournament title at City Stadium in Lynchburg
A championship rematch of the inaugural Atlantic Lacrosse Conference (ALC) Division I Tournament against Clemson awaits Liberty University’s men’s lacrosse team for Saturday’s 3 p.m. semifinal at City Stadium in Lynchburg.
The Flames dominated the Tigers in last season’s tournament final, held at the Liberty Lacrosse Fields, before Clemson dealt then-No. 1-ranked Liberty (10-3, now ranked No. 5) its first loss of the season in that same venue on March 12.
“Getting a chance to play Clemson again, it’s a little bit of a repeat from last year, losing to them in the regular season with a chance to play them in the ALC tournament and try to right that wrong,” Flames Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said. “Hopefully, we can get past Clemson on Saturday and have (a rematch of a regular-season-ending loss at No. 1) Virginia Tech waiting for us in (Sunday’s 3 p.m.) final. If that happens, we couldn’t have drawn it up any better.”
City Stadium, located adjacent to the Lynchburg Hillcats’ Stadium off Memorial Avenue, is where Liberty’s Football team played before Williams Stadium was constructed in 1989. It has been renovated in recent years and hosts football and soccer as well as lacrosse games.
“It is a great venue, centrally located with plenty of concessions and parking, and we are expecting good weather this weekend,” McQuillan said.
Tournament information and tickets are available online. Listen to a radio interview between Ed Lane from The Fast Lane and McQuillan and his wife, Lauren, who is organizing this weekend’s tournament.
“We are trying to get the word out about the community event,” Kyle McQuillan said. “There are a lot of youth teams coming out to play in halftime games, we will have a food truck vendor village, and things to keep people entertained and engaged. The focal point is lacrosse, but we want to make it an experience that is enjoyable for everyone involved.
“I’ve been here long enough, and I’ve seen lacrosse grow at a pretty fast rate, and I think this is going to be one of the premiere lacrosse events ever played here, with some fantastic schools and high-level games that will generate excitement with the youth and lacrosse fans in Lynchburg all weekend,” he added.
The tournament champion will receive an autobid to the May 9-14 MCLA Division I National Championships, a 16-team event in Round Rock, Texas. Liberty qualified for the 2018 and 2019 MCLA DI National Championships in Salt Lake City and went to last spring’s MCLA National Invitational in Texas. McQuillan is confident the Flames have locked up an at-large berth with their ranking and record, but would much rather return to Texas as defending ALC Tournament champions.
“We have been identifying the mistakes we made the first time that we played (Clemson),” McQuillan said. “Playing them again, we have learned their tendencies, the things they were successful at doing. As we transition to nationals, it will be a little bit of a different situation and we feel confident we’ve got a game plan that will bring us success. We just need to find our momentum again offensively.”
He said the opportunity for redemption has the Flames motivated to rise to the occasion as they head into the postseason.
“You don’t like losing any games, but if you do lose, you want to lose the early ones and not the ones that matter,” McQuillan said. “Playing Clemson and Virginia Tech, two programs that dealt us losses earlier in the year, it is going to be an uphill climb and much more difficult task than last year was, but these guys are up for it and we’re in a position to do just that.”
He said the Flames are prepared to play two games in two days, and as many as four in six days at nationals. As student-athletes, they have action-packed schedules with the semester drawing to a close.
“It’s Reading Day today, but we will continue to practice,” McQuillan said. “The (Choice Awards) end-of-year Club Sports banquet is tonight and then exams are starting (Thursday), but that’s kind of what you expect being a lacrosse player in the peak of our season.”
Liberty features 11 seniors plus three graduate students — including leading scorer Carter Elliott and goalie Ryan Reynolds — who will participate in the May 5-7 Commencement exercises before potentially flying to Texas on Sunday, May 8.
“You’re pulling all-nighters to prepare for exams, then you have conference championships and nationals on your plate all at once,” McQuillan said. “The next two weeks is going to be a grind (but) the guys are mentally and physically prepared for that.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer