Men’s lacrosse hosts alumni game, tailgate party while building on winning culture
Creating a positive culture with a strong spiritual foundation is a primary goal of Liberty University’s men’s lacrosse team.
Current and former players and their families are all invited to a Homecoming Weekend tailgate party on Saturday in front of the Club Sports Training Complex — in the former Toys R Us building across the street from Liberty Christian Academy in Candlers Station — leading up to the 3:30 p.m. kickoff for the Flames Football game against Gardner-Webb at Williams Stadium.
This fall, Liberty Head Coach Kyle McQuillan and his staff welcomed one of their largest incoming classes of freshmen and transfers. The Flames are hosting their annual alumni game Friday at 7 p.m. at the Liberty Lacrosse Fields as a way to integrate those newcomers and give founding members of the program opportunities to continue feeding into the family atmosphere and tradition of excellence they started.
“In years past, we definitely had the numbers of alumni to field one pretty large team,” McQuillan said. “This year, we are reducing roster sizes and our current team will break into four smaller teams to set up a smaller 7 v. 7 format against the alumni players.”
McQuillan said by the time the spring season starts in February this year’s team will experience the largest single-season change in personnel in program history.
“For us, what’s been most exciting is seeing our recruiting class guys come in and start getting acclimated and starting to feel comfortable about being a part of the program,” he said. “It’s one of the largest we’ve had and in a lot of ways probably one of the most talented, as well. We’re really excited about their development and their potential.”
He said the challenge for himself and the coaching staff is establishing a new identity while maintaining the spirit of the team.
“When you lose some important pieces like we did last year, you try to figure out what your new look is and how you think you’re going to be successful,” he said. “We want to continue to grow (physically) as athletes (and technically as players), but our priority and our main goal is making sure that by the time we hit the spring season we are a very tight community and that our culture is strong.”
McQuillan has changed fall practices up to give more reps for individual players and increase the level of competition within the team at every position.
“We divided into four different groups in the fall and started a box lacrosse league, and the guys have really enjoyed it,” he said, utilizing the outdoor basketball courts located at the Hill dorms and in the parking lot near Slim Chickens for a caged arena, with the players wearing box lacrosse helmets and additional padding. “It has been fun.”
The four teams play tournament format seeding games on Wednesdays from 4:15-5:30 p.m. and will hold a tournament in early November to declare a fall league champion.
Players have noticed a difference in intensity and overall competitiveness in this preseason, leading up to next Sunday’s scrimmage at Atlantic Lacrosse Conference (ALC) North rival JMU and the following Saturday’s fall season-ending showdown at ALC South foe Virginia Tech.
“Last year, we didn’t get the results we wanted, and it shows with every practice,” junior midfielder Evan Shock said. “With a lot of our guys returning and a lot of guys changing positions, we do have a great incoming class. Everybody wants to come in, everybody’s giving 100 percent. Everybody has a great role on the team, and I expect this will be the best Liberty team we’ve ever had.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer; Video by Micah Adams/Club Sports Video & Media Assistant