ROUND ROCK, Texas – The Division I late quarterfinals at the 2023 MCLA National Championships presented by New Balance stole the show on Tuesday night.
Playing side-by-side, the Chapman-Brigham Young and Liberty-Georgia contests brought all you’d expect to quarterfinal play.
Liberty (15-3) and Georgia (13-3) played a game full of wonderful swings of momentum that kept the fans fully engaged.
The Bulldogs were ready out of the gate and, thanks to a first-quarter natural hat trick from Eli Moran, Georgia had a 4-2 lead after one period.
The Flames finally settled in during the second quarter, blanking the Dawgs, 4-0, to take a 6-4 edge into halftime. Liberty built the lead to 10-7 late in the third and appeared to be in complete control.
Georgia had other plans as Moran scored his fourth to finish the third before Sam Wheeler and Aidan McKenna knotted the game at tens midway through the final frame.
As it looked like the two teams were headed for the first overtime game of the tourney, Liberty’s Cooper Branham scored as the buzzer went off for the 11-10 triumph to send the Flames into the semifinals for the first time as a D-I program.
Simultaneously, Chapman (17-3) and Brigham Young (14-7) rekindled their legendary rivalry, and the players did not disappoint.
The Panthers made a play at putting the game away early with a 5-2 lead after 15 minutes, aided by two goals from Jack Wirth. The Cougars would not be rolling over on this night, however.
Thanks to the lockdown defense that helped them stun Florida in the first round, BYU blanked Chapman in the second frame while Andrew Freedman’s second marker cut the lead to 5-4 heading into intermission.
The third quarter was much of the same, as Freedman completed his hat trick while the Panthers could muster just one goal, helping the Cougars build a 7-6 lead.
The edge expanded to 8-6 before the potent Chapman offense woke up, thanks mostly to the play of Liam Nelson, who exploded for four goals in the final quarter, including the game-winner.
An empty-netter by Nelson with under a minute sealed the 12-10 win and Chapman’s sixth semifinal berth in the last seven seasons.
No. 3 St. Thomas (13-2) d. No. 6 Montana State (14-3), 14-4
The Tommies took much of the drama out of this contest in the first half, holding the high-powered Bobcat offense to a lone goal as they built a 5-1 lead. Montana State would get no closer the rest of the way.
Garett Hoch, Cam Gelling and Cabe Maskevich all potted a pair of goals for the Tommies while Gunner Arens had to make just three saves.
Dexter Tedesco scored all four goals for the Bobcats.
St. Thomas will be making its 14th-straight trip to the national semifinals.
No. 13 Air Force (12-1) d. No. 12 UNC-Charlotte (11-3), 16-13
Air Force’s magical journey in the tournament continues for another round after the Falcons rallied past UNC-Charlotte with a second-half blitz.
The 49ers came out hot with Blake Moxim and Declan McHugh each getting two goals, staking Charlotte to a 6-3 lead after one.
Air Force was able to get a goal back in the second, helped by Mark Tang scoring five in the first 30 minutes, but the Falcons still trailed by a pair after two, 10-8.
Three-straight goals out of the gate in the third – including Tang’s sixth – gave the Falcons an 11-10 lead. Charlotte quickly answered with McHugh’s hat trick to send the two squads into the fourth locked at elevens.
The Falcons scored three goals in 1:51 to start the fourth quarter to open the scoring and take command of the game and advance to the first semifinal in program history.