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    April 6, 2022 Lynchburg, Va. RSS |

    One of the top matchups in MCLA Division I this season will pit Liberty University’s No. 3-ranked men’s lacrosse team against No. 1 BYU in a “Midnight Mayhem” showdown,  a highlight for prospective students in town for College For A Weekend (CFAW). The game will be streamed live on ESPN+ starting Friday at 11:59 p.m. at the Liberty Lacrosse Fields.

    This will be the 10th annual “Midnight Mayhem” game played by the Flames Lacrosse team, a tradition Head Coach Kyle McQuillan started in 2012 that has since been picked up by the men’s volleyball and ACHA Division I men’s hockey teams.

    “It’s a game we’ve been able to generate a lot of excitement and fan interaction with over the years,” McQuillan said. “For it being 10 years since the first time we’ve done it, it’s great that we’re able to bring in a team like BYU, the No. 1 team in the country, to get an opportunity to play them at home as part of our midnight game.”

    The Flames (10-1) have traveled to Salt Lake City, Utah, to compete in the 2018 and 2019 MCLA National Championships before facing the Cougars (11-0) for the first time at last season’s MCLA National Invitational, a 10-7 quarterfinal loss to the eventual champions in Round Rock, Texas.

    “We are happy to get another shot at them this year as we know they’re a team we’re going to have to contend with at a national level,” McQuillan said. “To get a late season look at them is great, and it will help progress us as a program. Any time a team makes a commitment to come across the country and compete is a big step and a tall task. We look forward to returning the favor sometime.”

    The contest will be made all the more meaningful by Liberty sporting Ukrainian flags on its uniforms and auctioning them off to raise awareness and financial support for the war-torn country.

    Liberty sent helmets to the Ukrainian National Team in July and has offered moments of silence before nearly every home game this season—all but the Feb. 19 season-opening win over reigning MCLA DI national champion South Carolina — to pray for the nation that was invaded by Russia on Feb. 24.

    The 45 black “Midnight Mayhem” jerseys will feature a Ukraine lacrosse patch on the left shoulder in solidarity with the nation that is being bombarded by missiles and ransacked by Russian troops.

    “The best thing we can do is create some visibility,” Flames Assistant Coach Mike Zumpano said. “The game will have a big draw in attendance with it being CFAW weekend, and with it being broadcast nationally, we are expecting a lot of visibility on our streaming platform as well.”

    An online portal where fans can submit a bid for each uniform or exercise the “buy-it-now” option will be available at noon this Friday and stay active through next Friday.

    “Money raised is going directly to FCA Lacrosse’s Ukraine ministry,” Zumpano said. “We are still trying to support the players they have on their team, some who have been displaced from Ukraine and living as refugees in a foreign place. We are also trying to support the Ukrainian soldiers on the ground, to provide medical supplies and food.”

    Zumpano has stayed in contact with Vova Demediuk, president of the Ukraine Lacrosse Federation and an international leader for FCA Lacrosse since 2015, and had the chance to FaceTime him earlier this week.

    “His heart is still so big for the people of Ukraine and he is so patriotic toward his own land that he was torn over whether or not to stay in the country,” Zumpano said, noting that he sensed God leading him to move with his wife and three kids to Warsaw, Poland. “He has continued to hold Huddle meetings with team members, staying in touch with them on a constant basis and is hoping to bring the team back together again in the future.”

    Zumpano and fellow Assistant Coach Brett Bernardo met Demediuk at the FILA World Cup in Netanya, Israel, in 2018, when the Ukrainian national team was brand new. It is now coached by FCA Lacrosse’s International Director Dan Britton, whose sons and daughters have played lacrosse at Liberty.

    “It hadn’t been adopted into World Lacrosse as a nation yet, but they had a chance to pray with players on the Russian team, and people who got to witness that were really blessed by that moment,” Zumpano said. “Vova’s heart continues to be with the Ukrainian people, and the Russians as well.”

    He hopes the Flames and their fans will be able to share in the suffering of the Ukrainian players and offer as much support as possible, remotely through prayer.

    “The biggest focus is restoring peace and order, and however we can support them in that effort right now,” Zumpano said. “Our hearts and prayers are with them constantly, and we are eager to see not only peace restored, but to share the Gospel and see lives changed through our support of the ministry.”

    By Ted Allen/Staff Writer