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Jefferis, Doolittle Make Marks in Field Hockey Opener
Despite a strong performance from junior goalkeeper Ann Jefferis and the Lady Flames' first goal in program history by freshman Helen Doolittle, Liberty field hockey dropped its opening contest to Radford, 3-1, Saturday. The program made its debut in front of 367 fans on Liberty's Multi-sport Complex on Campus East.
While the opening minutes of the first half saw several shots, the first goal of the contest came after 18:23 of play, as Radford's Ellie Staples connected as a result of a penalty corner. The Highlanders' Lynsey Daughtrey began the play from the end line, with Niamh Connolly making the stop and set-up for Staples' strike.
Liberty posted its first shot of the afternoon with 12:05 remaining in the opening half, when Jordan Richardson put a solid strike on the ball. The Highlanders' goalkeeper, Sidne Encarnacion, booted the ball away for her sole save on the day, as Rebecca May would tend the cage in the second half.
Radford finished the half strong, posting two goals in the final five minutes of the first half, to give the visitors a 3-0 cushion entering the final 35-minutes.
Marlee Schramm put in her third goal of the season at the 30:14 mark, again as a result of a penalty corner. The play looked similar to Radford's first goal, except Staples made one extra pass, setting up Schramm for the score.
Ashton Cox tacked on what would be the Highlanders' final goal of the day, with just 1:13 remaining in the half. After receiving a pass across an open circle, Cox missed her initial shot off the post but was able to corral the rebound and find the back of the cage to tally her second score on the season.
In the second half, the Lady Flames' defense stepped up while the offense was also able to produce more opportunities, with four of its five shots on the day coming later in the contest.
Penalty corner defense proved to be a strong point for the hosts, as the Highlanders had 15 on the afternoon, and only connected on a pair. In the opening five minutes of the second half alone, Radford had five opportunities.
"We gave up a lot of penalty corners, but they only scored on two. I think our penalty corner defense performed well. They played smart and made a lot of good decisions, so I'm really pleased," commented head coach Jodi Murphy after her first game at the helm.
Doolittle then entered her name in the Liberty record books with 15:17 remaining in the contest, as she scored the first goal in Liberty field hockey history. After receiving a penalty corner, Richardson entered the ball to Doolittle, The Lancaster, Pa., native lost control, but teammate Taylor Swalm was able to get a stick on the ball and send it back to Doolittle, who sent it to the back of the cage.
The Lady Flames posted a couple more shots in the closing minutes of the contest, but were unable to produce another score.
Murphy was encouraged by the squad's opening performance, especially on the defensive end. "I am so pleased, I think that the girls just came out and fought hard. We talked about low tackles on defense and double teams, and they executed that game plan flawlessly."
While Radford's offense attacked often, outshooting the Lady Flames 25-5 on the afternoon, Jefferis acted as a tough final line of defense, blocking away 13 shots during the contest.
"Ann's Liberty debut was awesome. She came up with some big saves, including probably one of the best saves I've seen in my coaching career," Murphy commented. The save, coming late in the second half was a result of a shot which was deflected and struck the crossbar. As the ball began to drop, Jefferis leapt across to deny it from entering her cage.
With one contest in the books, Murphy is looking forward to the rest of the Lady Flames' slate and is confident in the style which her team will play with.
"I think this is a step of great confidence for us. We came in with really no expectations of what it was going to be like. We're ready for the remaining games we have to face. I think the girls now have a good sense of the kind of field hockey we want to play, and if we stick to that we're going to have a tremendous year."
Liberty's next contest comes on Monday afternoon, in a game which was just announced yesterday. The Lady Flames will host Rider in a 1 p.m. game.