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Liberty Claims NorPac East Title With 3-2 Win Over Davidson
Natalie Barr's go-ahead goal with 1:08 remaining in the game helped propel the Liberty Lady Flames past the Davidson Wildcats, 3-2, on Sunday afternoon at Belk Turf Field. The win gives Liberty the NorPac Eastern Division title in just its first season of competition in the conference.
"I am so pleased with the outcome of this game today," commented Liberty head coach Jodi Murphy. "It truthfully was a battle to the finish. Davidson came out with great energy and competed a full 70 minutes. Our combination of passion and poise was an integral piece of the victory today."
The Lady Flames, winners of a program record six consecutive games, conclude the regular season with a 14-5 overall record (7-1 NorPac). Davidson finishes with an overall record of 8-11 (5-3 NorPac).
Davidson struck first off of its first penalty corner of the contest in the 11th minute. After Finley Amato ripped the ball from the top of the circle, Annie Evans tipped the ball past Liberty goalie Mallory Cuccio to put the Wildcats on top 1-0.
The Lady Flames answered with a goal to tie the score at one less than three minutes later. Hannah Jones inserted a penalty corner pass into the top of the circle to the stopper, Emily Dinsmore. Dinsmore dumped it to Abbey Basom, who quickly passed it to Natalie Barr. The Northern Ireland native dribbled left toward the goal. Barr gathered herself and fired a reverse shot into the back of the cage for her 13th goal of the season.
Over the final 21 minutes of play, both teams got off three more shots apiece, but neither team was able to find the back of the goal, as the teams headed to half tied at 1-1.
The Lady Flames held the slight advantage in shots in the first half, 7-6, while both teams recorded two penalty corners in the opening 35 minutes.
The Wildcats jumped back on top in the 49th minute. Amato lined a pass from outside the circle toward the goal. The ball was tipped in the air and Davidson's Tyler McFayden swatted it into the cage for the 2-1 lead.
Liberty knotted the game at 2-2 a mere 1:12 after the Wildcats' score. Basom fired a long pass toward the cage. The ball was deflected and popped up into the air near Mercedes Cox. The sophomore drilled the ball down and into the right corner of the goal. It was Cox's second goal of the season.
The Lady Flames' offense began to assert itself in the final 20 minutes of regulation. In the 58th minute, Liberty forced its second penalty corner of the second half. Basom fired a shot on goal, but Davidson goalie Sarah Fisher was there for the save. Helen Doolittle collected the rebound and laced the ball toward the cage, only to have the shot batted away by Wildcats' defender Madison Parrish.
A timeout by Davidson with 6:49 remaining in the game did not slow Liberty's offensive momentum. The Lady Flames earned a pair of penalty corners and launched four shots on goal in the next five minutes of play.
With time running out, Barr worked the ball into the right side of the circle and blasted a shot toward the cage. The shot deflected off of a Davidson defender and landed in the back of the goal for Barr's team-leading 14th goal of the season and a 3-2 Liberty lead.
Davidson managed a final shot with six seconds remaining, but the ball sailed wide. As the clock struck zero, the Liberty bench stormed the field to celebrate the 3-2 victory and the team's first NorPac East Division title.
For the game, Liberty outshot the Wildcats, 18-10, and held the slight advantage in penalty corners, 7-6. Cuccio finished the contest with three saves for the Lady Flames, while Fisher stopped 13 shots for Davidson.
"This East Division championship means a great deal to us in our first year as member of the conference, stated Murphy. "We are truly blessed. This team has trained hard to create a culture and foundation for this program. Their commitment to a standard of excellence is what impresses me most about this young group."
Next up, the Lady Flames will travel to Farmville, Va. on Thursday for the first round of the NorPac tournament. Liberty will be one of two No. 1 seeds and will play at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday against an opponent yet to be determined.