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No. 1 Seed Liberty Set for Big South Tourney
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The No. 1 seed Lady Flames will take the field against the No. 8 seed Lady Eagles tomorrow in the first round of the Big South Women's Soccer Championship at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, S.C. Match time is set for 2 p.m.
Liberty is 2009 Regular Season Champ
For just the third time in program history, the Lady Flames claimed the Big South regular season title, posting a 6-1-2 mark in conference play. It is the first conference title since 2003, when Liberty shared the crown with Coastal Carolina.
The Series Against Winthrop
Winthrop holds a 5-2-1 advantage in the all-time series between the two schools. The Lady Flames edged the Lady Eagles, 1-0 in double overtime, earlier this season at Eagle Field. Junior forward Maria Owen scored the game-winning goal.
Liberty's All-Time Marks in Big South Championship
The Lady Flames are 13-8-3 all-time in the Big South Championship, including titles in 2000, 2001 and 2005.
Liberty's last Big South Championship game came on Nov. 8, 2007, when the Lady Flames fell to Winthrop, 3-2, in overtime.
The Lady Flames' most common opponents in the tournament have been Charleston Southern (2-1-1) and UNC Asheville (2-0-2). The Lady Flames have also played Radford (2-0), High Point (2-1), Coastal Carolina (1-0) and former conference members UMBC (0-3), Elon (2-1), Howard (1-0), Towson (0-1) and Birmingham Southern (1-0).
Lady Flames and the Big South Championship
The Lady Flames captured their third Big South Championship by winning the 2005 Big South Women's Soccer Championship. By winning in the finals, Liberty also won its 11th tournament contest. Both marks are Big South records.
In 2006, the team won two games to extend its tournament win total to 13.
Liberty's other titles came in 2000 and 2001.
With their appearance in 2006, the Lady Flames have played in five conference finals, posting a 3-1-1 record. Liberty made three straight trips to the Big South final from 1999 to 2001.
Liberty fell in its first appearance in the title game in 1999, 3-2 in overtime to Elon. The following year, the Lady Flames claimed their first championship with a 2-0 victory over Elon and then made it back-to-back titles with another 2-0 title game win over the Phoenix in 2001.
Liberty returned to the title game in 2005 and added its third trophy since 2000, with a 3-0 victory over UNC Asheville.
Dominant on Defense
The Lady Flames defense has had a stellar season, posting nine shutouts. The team didn't allow a goal over 576:23 and tallied six shutouts during a stretch from Oct. 3 - 26.
Goalkeeper Karen Blocker leads the Big South in conference games with a 0.18 goals-against average and 6.17 saves per game, while Ashley Nyholt recorded two shutouts in three starts late in the season. All eight of the Lady Flames victories this year came as shutouts. Blocker's six shutouts this year moves her into third place all-time on the Liberty career shutouts list with seven.
Balanced Offensive Attack
Seven different Lady Flames have scored goals this season, while four players have scored three or more. Sophomore Silvia Betancourt leads the team with seven goals, followed by junior Maria Owen with six. Betancourt's next goal scored will tie her for fourth all-time in Liberty history for goals in a single season. The most recent Lady Flame to do it was four-time all-conference player Amy Oberlin in 2008.
Owen leads the team with 16 points, followed by Betancourt with 15 and sophomore Aimee Luurtsema with nine. Owen also leads the team with four assists.
Both Owen and Betancourt are among the conference leaders in several offensive categories. Owen ranks sixth in points and goals, while Betancourt is tied for seventh in points and fourth in goals.
Head Coach Jessica Hain
Jessica Hain is in her second season as the head coach of the Lady Flames. Coming into the tournament, Hain has a career record of 12-19-4. She has turned the program around in one year, becoming the first coach in Big South history to take a last place team to first place the following season.
The 2009 Lady Flames surpassed the 2005 Liberty team's mark of seven consecutive games without a defeat by shutting out Radford, 2-0, at home, on Oct. 25. The team's eight-game unbeaten streak set a new school record.
Winning Where it Counts
The Lady Flames are outscoring their opponents 12-3 in conference play. Liberty is averaging 1.33 goals per game in conference play, compared to 0.33 goals scored per game by its opponents.
Nyholt and Blocker have combined for a 0.31 goals-against average, while Liberty's Big South opponents have posted a 1.24 goals-against average.