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VMI Edges Liberty, 2-1
A VMI goal midway through the second half pushed the visiting Keydets past Liberty, 2-1, Monday evening in a Big South match at Osborne Stadium, snapping the Lady Flames' eight-game unbeaten streak, the longest in program history.
The defeat, the first for Liberty in Big South action this season, drops the Lady Flames to 5-1-1 in conference play and 8-7-1 overall. VMI evens its Big South mark at 4-4 and moves to 6-10 overall.
Liberty entered its final home game of the season and Senior Night, riding an eight-game unbeaten streak (7-0-1). The Lady Flames surpassed the 2005 Liberty team's mark of seven consecutive games without a defeat (7-0), last night in a 2-0 victory over Radford.
VMI opened the contest with early pressure on the Liberty defense in the fifth minute. The first shot of the game by midfielder Amanda Berrios was blocked in front by a Lady Flames defender. However, the home team was unable to clear, and Keydet forward Chrissy Beach followed with a shot which forced a save by Liberty goalkeeper Ashley Nyholt.
Four minutes later, the Lady Flames went on the attack, firing two shots in the 10th minute. A shot by midfielder Madison Short was blocked, but the rebound found its way to fellow midfielder Rachel Michener, who launched a shot on which Keydet goalkeeper Angela Redmond had to make a diving stop to keep the contest scoreless.
VMI took a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute. Midfielder Alexi Staton followed up her blocked shot, with a shot from the right post, which Nyholt batted down, but could not handle. The rebound bounded out to the left post, where midfielder Sarah Strand tipped the ball into the net for her second goal of the year and a Keydet advantage.
The goal was the first allowed by Liberty over a span of seven games, dating back to Oct. 3 in a 1-1 tie with Charleston Southern. The Lady Flames had not yielded an opponent tally in 576:23. In addition, the Keydets' lead was the first time Liberty had trailed in a game since a 2-1 defeat at Northern Illinois on Sept. 20.
The Lady Flames knotted the contest in the 32nd minute. Midfielder Rachel Michener found forward Maria Owen with a through pass into the left side of the 18-yard box. The junior forward took two dribbles and blasted a shot from 15 yards out into the open right side of the goal for her fifth goal of the year, sending the contest to intermission tied at 1-1.
The second half began with play between the two teams confined to the midfield, with a blocked shot off the foot of Michener in the 47th minute the only scoring attempt until the 61st minute.
In that minute, the Keydets scored the go-ahead goal with their first shot of the half. Midfielder Kacey Hall settled a loose ball between Lady Flame defenders 30 yards out and sent a booming shot high into the net for her second goal of the year and a 2-1 VMI advantage.
After three consecutive saves by Nyholt over the next 17 minutes, the Liberty offense rallied. In the 80th minute, Betancourt stepped past a defender and fired a shot, which was turned away by Redmond.
Less than three minutes later, Liberty received a free kick just above the 18-yard box. Betancourt bent a shot past the VMI wall of defenders and on net. However, Redmond made a juggling save to preserve the Keydet edge.
In the closing minute, Liberty forward Aimee Luurtsema was able to get free for a shot from the right side of the penalty area. However, her shot went wide, as VMI held on for a 2-1 win.
The shots on the night were as even as the play on the field, with each team taking 10 shots. VMI held the advantage in corner kicks, 6-2.
Liberty goalkeeper Nyholt recorded five saves in her first start of the season, while Redmond made four for VMI.
Before the contest, the Lady Flames recognized seniors Heather Bowling, Bethany Lam and Rachel Wisehart, who played their last home game in a Liberty uniform.
The Lady Flames travel to Asheville, N.C., Friday for a 3 p.m. contest with the UNC Asheville Bulldogs. VMI hosts Radford in a Big South contest, Friday. Game time is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.