No. 4 Flames get another upset shot at No. 2 Virginia Tech on Friday night in Blacksburg
A regular-season-ending showdown — on Good Friday at 7 p.m. at Atlantic Lacrosse Conference (ALC) rival Virginia Tech, the new No. 2-ranked team in MCLA Division I — promises to be at least as daunting of a challenge for Liberty University’s No. 4-ranked men’s lacrosse team as last weekend’s “Midnight Mayhem” matchup with No. 1 BYU.
The Cougars (13-1) held off a spirited comeback by the Flames to prevail, 12-11 at the Liberty Lacrosse Fields, before losing to the Hokies, 11-8, on Monday in Blacksburg, Va., after many of the MCLA coaches cast their votes in the weekly poll. Virginia Tech (11-1) — which has won nine games in a row since losing to reigning MCLA DI national champion South Carolina — received 13 first-place votes, more than BYU (9), which remained at No. 1.
“We’ve been telling our guys this week that regardless of what the poll says, we get to play the No. 1 team in the country again, two weeks in a row,” Flames Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said. “It is an opportunity for redemption. They’ve improved vastly (since an 11-9 Liberty scrimmage win on Oct. 29 at home), and the same thing is true about ourselves. They are a team that is peaking at the right time, and we want to prove that on Friday.”
Liberty has not lost to the Hokies since April 13, 2018, winning three scrimmages and three regular-season meetings since then.
“We know how competitive Virginia Tech is, and how competitive this rivalry has been,” McQuillan said. “It is the last game of the season in Blacksburg on their Senior Night, and they are coming off the biggest win in program history, so they’ve got a lot of momentum right now.”
Keeping matters in perspective, McQuillan said Friday night’s game is somewhat inconsequential because both teams have already secured top seedings and first-round byes for the second ALC tournament set for April 29-May 1 at City Stadium in Lynchburg.
“But the fact that it’s Virginia Tech, our biggest rival, the momentum a victory in this game will give to either program is enough to play for,” McQuillan said. “In rivalry games, regardless of status or position, you usually get the best punch from both teams.”
An upset win on the road would also give the Flames a boost in the national rankings after two one-goal losses against top-five teams, including a 14-13 overtime loss to then-No. 4 Clemson on March 11, also at home, when Liberty was ranked No. 1.
“Within a week, we have gone from being hunted to being the hunter, gone from protecting our spot in the poll, to trying to attack theirs,” McQuillan said. “We have had some big wins against high-ranked teams, so we are right there, exactly where we need to be.”
He said the Flames are grateful for another opportunity to solidify themselves as one of the top teams in the nation, Friday night in Blacksburg.
“Our guys are playing well, and have shown a lot of growth, a lot of development,” he said. “This is another opportunity to get better and continue to learn, and to prepare ourselves for what will be a wildly competitive (ALC) conference tournament and hopefully (MCLA DI) national tournament (May 9-14) in Texas.”
“You want to be playing the top programs because it means your in the running for a conference championship or a national championship,” he added. “We have proven we belong in the conversations for the best teams in the nation, now we’ve got to convert those chances.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer