Defender Alex Mack and goalkeeper Holly Van Noord
The Liberty women's soccer team stepped onto the field at Cupp Stadium, Wednesday afternoon, looking to claim first place in the Big South. Unfortunately for the Lady Flames, the Radford Highlanders proved why they have claimed the last two conference championships, scoring quickly in the first period en route to a 3-0 victory. With the defeat, Liberty falls to 8-4-1 on the year and 3-1-1 in the Big South. Radford improves to 9-1-1 and 5-0 in conference action. Radford remains unbeaten against the Lady Flames since 2009 and leads the all-time series, 16-7-4. Melanie Priestly, Britney Kendall and Asyia Mitchell accounted for Radford's trio of goals. Despite the loss, Liberty outshot the Highlanders, 13-9, and held a 6-3 advantage in corner kicks. Liberty goalkeeper Holly Van Noord played the entire contest in between the posts, making three saves. Radford's Che' Brown earned the shutout, finishing with six saves. The two-time defending Big South champions wasted little time, lighting up the scoreboard in the third minute. Following a free kick by Radford's Sydney Golden, Priestly collected the ball and fired a shot from the right side of the 18-yard box into the left corner of the net for the early 1-0 lead. Later in the 11th minute, Maddie Boone tried to give the Lady Flames the equalizer. The junior maneuvered around multiple Highlander defenders and blasted an attempt, which sailed just above the Radford cross bar. In the 24th minute, Madison Kauzlarich nearly knotted the contest. After a pass was sent over to the right side for Kauzlarich, the sophomore got a foot on the ball, but Brown pounced on the play, preventing the Lady Flames from evening the score. Liberty's final first-period scoring opportunity came in the 36th minute. This time, Rebecca Smith looked to be the beneficiary, connecting on a header off a crossing pass from the right side. Smith's attempt sailed toward the Radford net, where it was snatched by Brown, allowing the Highlanders to maintain a 1-0 lead at halftime. Although the Lady Flames controlled possession for the majority of the opening 20 minutes in the second period, Radford managed to earn an insurance goal in the 66th minute. With Liberty defender Alex Mack challenging her, Kendall caught Van Noord out of position and quickly booted a ball at the Liberty net. Van Noord dove back and got a hand on the shot, but the ball careened off the netminder and across the goal line for the 2-0 advantage. Radford capped its scoring in the 80th minute. On a breakaway play, Kendall airmailed it at Van Noord. The redshirt freshman made the stop, but Mitchell was there to collect the ball on the rebound and finish the play for the 3-0 victory. Liberty returns to Osborne Stadium, Saturday night, to play host to High Point. Match time is set for 6 p.m., with the contest streaming live on the Big South Network.