Soccer finishes season in NCAA tourney

Jeff Alder’s team advanced to the NCAA tournament after winning the BSC

Through their hardships during the season, Liberty University re-mastered the basics of soccer at defense and teamwork that allowed them to win the Big South Championship this season and progress to the national NCAA Tournament.

By grace — Flames made a run into the NCAA tournament, but Old Dominion ended their magical season in penalty kicks. Photo credit: Les Schofer, Promotional Publication

Not too many people expected Liberty to win the Big South Championship this season. It wasn’t that Liberty didn’t have the talent to do so. A mid-season slump jeopardized the Flames tournament hopes but Liberty was quick to rebound.

“I feel we learned a lot during those games,” head coach Jeff Alder said. “It allowed us to see if we can do things a little bit better and pay attention a little bit more to detail. Those games really helped us get back to our root fundamental to keeping the ball, playing simple and finding the next guy.”

The Flames showed just how much they learned in the season during their 2-1 victory over No. 1 seed Coastal Carolina, and in their 3-1 victory over No. 2 seed Gardner-Webb. Despite being outshot by the opposition in both games, Liberty managed to hold steady in their defense and pull out a win from both their opponents in the Big South Championship.

“(We were) never intimidated,” defender Chris Phillips said. “The Big South Tournament and NCAA tournament is about surviving and advancing. Can your team come together, fight and want it more than the other team on that day? We did that even into the NCAA tournament.”

In the NCAA tournament, Liberty kept up the discipline they learned over the course of the season. Liberty was once again outshot by Old Dominion University who boasts a No. 2 scoring offense in the nation, but the Flames kept its teamwork intact and managed to not allow a single regulation-time goal and entered the penalty kick series at 0-0. The Flames fell to ODU on the final PK.

Flames men’s soccer finished its season with an overall 11-6-3 record, and added a second Big South Championship trophy to the university’s hardware display.

“Although we are losing six seniors, there are still six returning starters and the guys this year gained experience that few teams will have next season,” Phillips said. “I have no doubt that the team will have (its) sixth consecutive double-digit win season next year.”

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