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Big Second Half Leads Liberty Past VCU, 5-2
After being held scoreless in the first half, the Liberty Lady Flames field hockey team erupted for five goals in the second stanza to defeat the VCU Rams, 5-2, on Sunday afternoon at Cary Street Field. The victory ends Liberty's two game winless drought and improves its record to 3-2 overall on the season, while VCU falls to 2-3.
Natalie Barr paced the Lady Flames with a pair of goals and an assist. Ashlee Krulock, Erin Dombach and Mercedes Cox also scored for Liberty.
The Lady Flames controlled the tempo of the game throughout the majority of the first half. Liberty's back line of Megan Johnson, Hannah Jones, Helen Doolittle and Serena Barr held VCU to just one shot during the first 34 minutes of the contest.
Liberty had several scoring opportunities in the opening stanza, recording five shots, but was unable to put the ball into the goal. Rams goalkeeper Kendall Clifton turned away three first-half shots to keep the Lady Flames scoreless in the opening frame.
VCU broke the scoreless tie in the final minute of the first half. Off of their second consecutive penalty corner opportunity, the Rams' Kendell Combs flicked the ball past a diving Ann Jefferis to put the home team on top 1-0 heading into the halftime break. Stephanie Demasi and Erika Bienlien were credited with the assists on the play.
Liberty came into the second half with renewed energy and it showed in the opening minutes of the final stanza. The Lady Flames forced four consecutive penalty corners beginning at the 29:34 mark. On the fourth attempt, Natalie Barr struck a low line drive toward the cage. Ashlee Krulock reached out her stick and redirected the ball past Rams' Clifton, knotting the score at one apiece. It was Krulock's team-leading fourth marker of the season.
Liberty's offense didn't let up, coming back with the go-ahead goal a mere 55 seconds after tying the score. Barr dribbled into the top right side of the VCU circle. The sophomore spun back toward the cage and ripped a reverse shot over the outstretched stick of Clifton into the top right corner of the goal, giving the Lady Flames a lead they would not relinquish.
The offensive outburst continued in the 49th minute for Liberty. Micailah Sloman sent a crossing pass from the left side of the circle in the direction of Dombach. The Lancaster, Pa., native received the pass and buried into the back of the cage for her first career score and a 3-1 Lady Flames advantage.
After VCU's Emilie Soares scored to pull the Rams to within one, Liberty upped its lead back to two goals in the contest's 65th minute. On the Lady Flames' sixth penalty corner of the half, Natalie Barr blasted a one-timer from the top of the circle past a diving Clifton into the bottom-left corner of the cage. Hannah Jones and Bethany Barr assisted on the play to give the Lady Flames the 4-2 lead.
Mercedes Cox capped the day's scoring for Liberty with under two minutes remaining. Hannah Goldsborough deflected a long pass from Micailah Sloman right to the waiting Cox. The junior knocked the ball into the cage, sealing the 5-2 victory for the Lady Flames.
For the contest, Liberty controlled the advantage in both shots, 14-8, and penalty corners, 7-3. In goal, the Lady Flames' Jefferis recorded three saves, while the Rams' Clifton notched four stops in the defeat.
Liberty continues its six-game road swing on Friday at Monmouth. Game time against the Hawks is scheduled for 3 p.m.