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Liberty and Gardner-Webb Ends in Stalemate
After a two-game skid on the road, the Liberty women's soccer team stepped onto the East Campus Fields, Thursday night, hosting Gardner-Webb in Big South action. Despite posting a season-high shot total and outshooting the Runnin' Bulldogs, 34-6, the contest ended in a 1-1 tie.
The draw marks the second straight between the two squads during the regular season. The stalemate is also the third consecutive tie in the series, as Liberty and Gardner-Webb played to a 0-0 draw during the 2010 Big South Championship quarterfinals on Nov. 6, 2010. Gardner-Webb advanced to the semifinals on penalty kicks, 4-2. Liberty is now 3-1-4 all-time against the Runnin' Bulldogs.
With the tie, Liberty is 8-5-1 on the season and 2-2-1 in conference play. Gardner-Webb is 2-9-1 overall and 1-3-1 in the Big South.
Karen Blocker achieved a milestone in the contest, surpassing the 300 save mark. The redshirt senior played the entire contest, finishing with four saves. Blocker now has 303 saves for her Liberty career and is just the second goalkeeper in program history to make 300 saves.
Forward Nichole Poppe was credited with the lone goal for the Runnin' Bulldogs, receiving an assist from midfielder Samantha Gutierrez.
Liberty freshman forward Jaime Bouffard garnered her team-leading fifth goal of the season for the Lady Flames, while Maddie Boone chipped in the helper.
Liberty outshot Gardner-Webb in the opening period, 16-1. The Lady Flames nearly got on the board in the beginning of the third minute with a Casey Norris header that ricocheted off the crossbar. After two shots went wide of the goal, Rebecca Smith and Crystal Elmers each took attempts on net in the ninth and 11th minute, respectively. However, Gardner-Webb goalkeeper Amy Schmitt was able to make both stops, keeping the game scoreless.
Head coach Jessica Hain's squad continued to apply offensive pressure, recording six more shots over the ensuing 18:30. Bouffard capped the span with another shot on goal, but once again Schmitt was there to make the grab.
The Lady Flames posted five more shots in the period, two of which were snagged by Schmitt. Megan Curan recorded the lone shot on goal for Gardner-Webb in the 40th minute. Needing just one stop to make history, Blocker thwarted the attempt for her 300th career save, ultimately leading to a scoreless tie at halftime.
Liberty began the second period with a Crystal Elmers shot on goal in the opening 30 seconds, which resulted in Schmitt's sixth save.
In the 51st minute, Gutierrez booted the ball at the Liberty net, but Blocker corralled the attempt.
After five more Liberty shots including a Megan Warner blast that led to another Schmitt save, Gardner-Webb was able to find the mark at the opposite end.
At the top of the 67th minute, Gutierrez sent a pass from the right side of the 18-yard box to Poppe. The freshman then slammed the ball into the back of the net, putting the visitors, ahead, 1-0.
Liberty nearly found the equalizer in the 76th minute. Following a corner kick by Brittany Aanderud, Stell connected on a header, which bounced off the crossbar. Norris followed up with a header of her own, but the shot was blocked, preventing the Lady Flames from evening the odds.
Liberty broke the ice in the 87th minute, thanks to a highlight reel goal by Bouffard. After receiving a pass from Smith, the freshman headed the ball into the air and followed up with a kick off her left foot, which angled into the back of the net, knotting the contest at one.
Liberty feverishly tried to put the game away in regulation with a second goal, but was unable to find the net again, setting up overtime.
In the first overtime, Liberty took two shots toward the close of the extra period. After an attempt by Aanderud sailed wide in the 99th minute, Maddie Boone nearly played heroine with a shot on goal in the final second. Despite the effort, Schmitt made the stop, sending the contest to a second overtime.
During the final 10 minutes, Liberty received shots in the 106th and 107th minutes from Bouffard and sophomore Geena Swentik, each resulting in Schmitt saves. Gardner-Webb took one final corner kick in the last 28 seconds, but could not capitalize, leading to the 1-1 tie.
In addition to outshooting the Runnin' Bulldogs, Liberty held a 6-2 advantage in corner kicks. Like Blocker, Schmitt played the full contest, finishing with 12 saves.
Liberty returns to action this Saturday on Homecoming Weekend, playing to host to Winthrop. Game time at the East Campus Fields is slated for 7 p.m.