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After a convincing 10-0 victory over Saint Louis (1-9) Friday, Sept. 27, Liberty’s field hockey team (5-4) could not find its offense Sunday afternoon, losing 2-0 to the fourth-ranked University of Virginia (UVA) Cavaliers (11-1).
Lady Flames goalkeeper Ann Jefferis faced 11 shots on goal, saving 10. But the Cavaliers potent offense proved to be too much, as senior forward Elly Buckley tallied a pair of goals late in the second half to give the Cavaliers the win.
“I woke up this morning, and I really felt like (Jefferis) was gonna have a great game,” Lady Flames Head Coach Jodi Murphy said. “And she did just that. She made some really incredible saves. Buckley is their star player and had 11 shots, and (Jefferis) shut her down the whole game.”
While Jefferis made several acrobatic saves, the Lady Flames defense also disabled the Cavalier attack for much of the game. Murphy was impressed with the play of junior defender Helen Doolittle, her tackles helping to stop the Cavalier attack.
“Serena (Barr) played amazing,” Jefferis said. “(With) Doolittle (and) Olivia (Carroll), coming in, they cut down the angles of the shots. They’re what makes it (possible) for me to make the saves.”
The game was kept scoreless until the 57-minute mark before Buckley gathered her own rebound and nudged a shot into the back of the cage for UVA. Murphy decided to pull Jefferis with five minutes remaining in order to put an extra offensive player on the pitch, but the decision backfired when Buckley notched her second goal of the contest off a penalty corner.
“If we had kept (Jefferis) in and played to a pleasant 1-0 result, I would have regretted it,” Murphy said. “I really felt confident pulling (Jefferis) out, and I stand by that decision. We had a lot of opportunities there in the last minute of the game, and unfortunately, we weren’t able to capitalize on them. But I don’t know if we would have gotten those opportunities without pulling (Jefferis).
The Lady Flames had their share of scoring chances, finishing with 10 shots on the afternoon. Liberty also totaled seven penalty corners. However, they were not able to execute on those opportunities, only challenging UVA keeper Jenny Johnstone with one shot on goal. Sophomore forward Natalie Barr led the team with three shots.
“I feel like we controlled a lot of the game — just the tempo, the pace we played at,” Doolittle said. “We really learned how to play a full 70 minutes and how to close out a game.”
The Lady Flames contest Friday afternoon versus Saint Louis was decidedly more one-sided, as Liberty won 10-0 and nine separate Lady Flames scored. Abbey Basom was the lone Lady Flame to score more than once.
“When we made (the changes from starters to bench players), there was no disparity in how our game was played,” Murphy said. “We still had the same amount of effort. We still had the same amount of speed and skill out there. You see that by the score.”
Goalies Jefferis and Mallory Cuccio split time evenly in goal, each playing one half. Neither faced a single shot on goal from Saint Louis.
The Lady Flames are now set to begin conference play, matching up with Davidson Oct. 5.