GRAND BLANC, Mich. -- Liberty wrapped up its spring break road trip by dominating defending MCLA Division I national champion Michigan State from start to finish Wednesday afternoon at the Genesee Field House, posting an impressive 18-7 victory.
"The guys played excellent today; probably one of the best games I've seen us play in my time coaching at Liberty," said Liberty coach Kyle McQuillan. "There was a little concern that playing their third game over the course of spring break trip, the level of energy might dissipate, but the energy level and attitude on the field and on the sidelines was extremely high."
With win, Liberty (7-0, No. 6 in this week's Under Armour MCLA Division I Weekly Coaches Poll) is one of four remaining undefeated teams in the country.
"We checked all the boxes we wanted to check this week," McQuillan said. "We still have a lot of things we can improve on, but overall, we're really happy with this week and where we're sitting right now."
The Flames opened a 7-1 lead after the first quarter and expanded it to 11-3 by halftime and 14-4 after the third quarter against the Spartans (2-4), who slipped eight spots to No. 12 in this week's rankings.
"With the fact that they're the defending national champions, the guys felt they had something to prove," McQuillan said. "They went down 1-0 and responded with seven goals. They didn't get rattled, but kept their composure and started and finished extremely well."
Midfielders ignited Liberty's attack, with junior Derrick Esh and seniors C.J. Nichols and Chase Wright each netting four goals and freshman Cameron Carter scoring twice. Junior attack Caleb Britton had a hat trick and senior Sam Gregory scored one goal and distributed two assists.
Defensively, senior goalie Brayden Harriman made eight saves against a very high-percentage shooting team.
"We were very effective in our ride and he was a big part of that, getting the ball upfield and pushing it on transition," McQuillan said. "Collectively, our defensive guys were physical and aggressive and took away their offensive looks. They did not have many settled six-on-six scoring chances. When the ball hit the turf in our defensive zone, more often than not, they were coming up with it."
Senior long-stick defender Win McKeever paced the defense with seven ground-ball pickups and junior attack Austin Aguilar added four.
Freshmen faceoff specialists Cole Jankowsky (10-of-18) and Shane Reynolds (4-of-8) gave the Flames an edge in restarts.
Liberty will return to practice on Monday to prepare for next weekend's Battle for Baltimore, where the Flames will face Oregon on Saturday, March 23, and Northeastern on Sunday, March 24.
(by Ted Allen)