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Liberty’s field hockey team wins its first conference championship
Natalie Barr scored her second goal of the game with 3:49 remaining to give the Liberty women’s field hockey team a conference championship Saturday, Nov. 9 in only its third year of competing on the NCAA Division I level.
The Lady Flames ousted 10th-ranked Stanford 2-1 in the final of the NorPac Championship in a defensive battle in which the Flames were only able to manage two shots on goal.
Both of those shots found their way from Natalie Barr’s stick into the cage just minutes apart to propel the Lady Flames to their first NCAA tournament berth in program history.
“It happened so naturally,” Natalie Barr said. “I was a bit annoyed at myself with my performance (Thursday) and this whole tournament’s performance. Even today, I hadn’t got going even as I was trying so hard. Both those times, it literally just happened. Honestly, it was down to God.”
The game was a scoreless tie until Natalie Barr’s first goal, which came off a pass from her younger sister Serena Barr with 12:37 left in the contest. However, Stanford evened it up with 5:18 left on an Alex McCawley goal off one of Stanford’s 11 penalty corners.
The Lady Flames took less than two minutes to respond to McCawley’s equalizer, as Natalie Barr kept the ball from multiple defenders before launching a backhanded shot past Cardinal goalie Dulcie Davies.
“We are such a team of fighters,” sophomore forward Jordan Richardson said. “That’s always been the personality of our team and the way that we play. We really showed that in the last seven minutes, and I was thankful we were able to come away with a nice shot and goal.”
The Cardinal pulled Davies with just over two minutes remaining but could not muster a serious chance at a goal, even with a one-person advantage on the attack.
Lady Flames goalie Ann Jefferis was named tournament MVP following the game after allowing only two goals in three games, as well as stopping a flurry of Cardinal shots in the final. Natalie and Bethany Barr joined Jefferis on the NorPac Championship All-Tournament Team.
The Lady Flames made it to the final of the tournament by beating California 3-1 Thursday, Nov. 7 and the University of California Davis (UC Davis) 6-0 Friday, Nov. 8. It was the first time all season the Lady Flames played back-to-back-to-back days. The Lady Flames outscored opponents 11-2 in the tournament.
California, which beat the Lady Flames earlier in the year, could not come up with enough offensive firepower to win a second time. The Golden Bears kept it close, staying within one goal most of the game before Bethany Barr iced the game with a goal with one second remaining. Sarah Gipe and Richardson each added one goal apiece for the Lady Flames in the 3-1 victory.
The Lady Flames dominated the UC Davis Aggies from the start in the Lady Flames second game of the tournament, outshooting them 17-3 on the afternoon. Five different players — Bethany Barr, Serena Barr, Hannah Dougherty and Hannah Jones — each scored once, while Sarah Gipe scored twice.
The Lady Flames will now be competing in their first-ever NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championship Wednesday, Nov. 13 against the Colonial Athletic Association champion Delaware Blue Hens in the play-in round.
“It’s so crazy to think where we came from three years ago starting as a team,” Richardson said. “We were searching for our first Division I win, and now we’re standing in the NorPac Championship for the second time in a row, beating the No.10 team in the country.”
The Lady Flames are one of the hottest teams in the country heading into the tournament, winning their past 12 games and outscoring their opponents 57-9 during the streak.