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Liberty Races Past UC Davis Into NorPac Title Game
The Liberty Lady Flames field hockey squad punched its ticket to tomorrow's NorPac title game with a 6-0 blanking of the UC Davis Aggies on Friday afternoon at Liberty Field Hockey Field. The Lady Flames will host No. 1W and 10th ranked Stanford in tomorrow's title match, which is slated to begin at 1:30 p.m. The game will be a rematch of last season's championship game in Farmville, Va., in which the Cardinal downed Liberty, 3-0. The Lady Flames are the first East Division team to reach back-to-back title matches.
Sarah Gipe led Liberty with two goals and the defense pitched its fifth shutout in the last six contests and eighth overall this season. The Lady Flames run their winning streak to a program-best 11 straight games and improve to 16-4 overall. UC Davis, playing in its first NorPac Championship semifinal, falls to 6-13 on the season. The Aggies will meet Longwood in tomorrow's third place game at 11 a.m.
From the moment the Lady Flames emerged from the locker room, their energy and excitement was evident. Liberty turned its energy into two goals in the first 7:07 of the contest, putting the Aggies in an early hole.
On the Lady Flames' first penalty corner of the day, Hannah Jones whipped the ball into the top of the circle to the stopper Bethany Barr. After Barr made the stop, the ball was passed around the top of the circle a couple of times before Natalie Barr knocked it back across to the left side to Serena Barr. In one sweeping motion, the freshman lined the pass into the cage, giving Liberty the 1-0 advantage.
A mere 1:14 later, the Lady Flames forced a penalty on UC Davis, setting up a stroke opportunity for Jones. The sophomore went top shelf on goalkeeper Elizabeth Lee, making her a perfect 3-for-3 on penalty strokes this season and extending Liberty's lead to 2-0.
The offensive onslaught continued in the 23rd minute. Jordan Richardson found Hannah Doherty at the top of the circle with a pass from the right side. Doherty blasted a shot into the back of the cage for her first marker of the year and a 3-0 Lady Flames' edge.
Nearing the 10 minute mark of the first half, Abbey Basom ripped a shot on cage, but her attempt was knocked away by Lee. The ball bounded toward Gipe and the sophomore snuck it into the goal from close range. Gipe's first of two scores on the day upped the lead to 4-0.
The Lady Flames pushed their advantage to 5-0 with 8:13 remaining until halftime. Erin Dombach sent a hard pass from the top of the circle, which Gipe tipped past Lee and into the cage for her second goal of the game and seventh of the season.
Just like it did in yesterday's contest against Cal, Liberty's defensive unit proved to be nearly impenetrable. Jones, Helen Doolittle, Olivia Carroll and Serena Barr, along with a host of others, held UC Davis to zero shots and zero penalty corners in the opening frame.
Entering the second half, Liberty switched goalkeepers, inserting Mallory Cuccio into the cage, replacing starter Ann Jefferis. Cuccio was tested in the 43rd minute, as Danielle Koehne sent the Aggies' first shot of the game on cage, but the sophomore made the save.
With 13:12 elapsed in the final stanza, there was another Barr-to-Barr connection. This time it was twin sisters Serena and Bethany hooking up for the score. Serena Barr sent a pass from the left side to Bethany Barr at the top of the circle and the midfielder blasted her fifth goal of the year into the cage, pushing Liberty's lead to 6-0.
UC Davis' final attempt to get on the scoreboard came with 3:45 remaining in the contest. Cuccio turned away a shot by Agustina Singh to seal the 6-0 shutout win for the Lady Flames.
For the game, Liberty outshot the Aggies, 17-3, and forced five short corners to zero for UC Davis. It was the first time this season, the Lady Flames have held their opponent to no penalty corners in a game.
In goal, Jefferis and Cuccio each played a half for Liberty. Jefferis was not forced to make a save, while Cuccio tallied two stops. The Aggies also used two goalkeepers, with Lee playing 27:49 and Danielle Herrington notching 42:11 of action. Lee recorded four saves, while Herrington tallied three.