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Lady Flames Prepared for First Road Trip
After opening with a pair of games at home last weekend, the Liberty field hockey team will set out on its first road trip of the season this weekend. The team will travel to Fredericksburg, Va., to compete against Marywood, Saturday at 6:30 p.m., and Christopher Newport, Sunday at 4 p.m. The weekend contests are part of an invitational tournament hosted by Mary Washington.
While the Lady Flames are off to a 0-2 start, their defensive performance has been very strong for the beginning of the season. Despite opponents' ability to post a lot of shots, Liberty's defenders have either blocked away the shot before it reaches the cage, or goalkeeper Ann Jefferis has secured the save. Through two games, the Harleysville, Pa., native has tallied 28 saves, while only giving up seven goals.
Murphy is satisfied with her team's defense thus far, commenting on it after keeping Rider below its season goal average. "Our defense is so strong. We get a lot of shots against us, but they really can sustain. But we just have to take advantage of the attack opportunities that we earn as well. Overall I was pleased, though."
The Lady Flames will open the weekend against NCAA Division III program, Marywood, who is led by second-year head coach Megan Bullock. The Pacers are also 0-2 on the season, having been blanked in each of their contests. Scranton defeated Marywood 3-0 to begin the season (Sept. 1), while Moravian College claimed the victory 2-0 (Sept. 3).
Liberty then caps the weekend off against one of the top NCAA Division III programs, Christopher Newport, who currently boasts a No. 12 ranking in the 2011 Kookaburra/National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Division III Preseason Poll.
The Captains, led by ninth year head coach Carrie Moura (105-36), are coming off a 15-4 season in 2010, where they advanced to the NCAA tournament for the fifth-straight year.
Christopher Newport is 1-1 during the young 2011 season. After opening with a 2-1 win over Randolph-Macon College, 2-1 (Sept. 1), the Captains fell to No. 4 ranked Sailsbury University, 0-1 (Sept. 7). Prior to facing the Lady Flames on Sunday, the team will compete against Centre College, also as part of Mary Washington's tournament.
Liberty field hockey's first away games will serve as preparation for the rest of the season, as 12 of the remaining 13 games will be played away from Lynchburg. However, head coach Jodi Murphy is viewing the time on the road as a positive.
"We've got a long road stretch here. I'm looking forward to it. I think for us being a first year program, the time on the road is very valuable. It will allow us to learn more about the off-field dynamic," stated Murphy.
In addition, the schedule will vary in regards to opponents' affiliation. After facing the pair of NCAA Division III this weekend, three more Division III contests are on slate, while there are also a pair of Division II opponents, an NAIA opponent in Houghton, and six matchups with Division I programs. Once again, Murphy attributes the schedule to being a great asset to a program which is just beginning.
"We'll continue to take on different opponents and styles of field hockey. We're going to see a whole array of levels, and I think that will help us moving forward," commented Murphy.