Sam Struss' career-high five goals and Michaela Rich's hat trick helped propel the Liberty lacrosse team to a 13-9 victory over the visiting Elon Phoenix in the Lady Flames' home opener, Friday evening at Liberty Lacrosse Field. The win is the first for Liberty under first-year head coach Kelly Nangle.
The Lady Flames improve to 1-3 on the season after collecting their first home-opening win since the 2010 campaign. Elon falls to 0-2 on the young season.
The contest was characterized by scoring runs for both teams, the first of which belonged to Liberty to open the contest. Rich, Struss and Alyssa Kidder each tallied a marker as the Lady Flames jumped out to an early 3-0 lead with 6:09 elapsed in the opening stanza. Rich's goal came a mere 37 seconds into the contest and was set up by Kallie Britton's first of three assists for the game.
The Phoenix responded by scoring five of the match's next six goals to take a 5-4 advantage with 7:26 remaining until halftime. Annie Shenk scored the four of the five goals to help the visitors jump in front. Struss notched the Lady Flames' lone score during that stretch on a free-position attempt.
Liberty seized control of the game with a 5-0 spurt to close the first half. After Struss scored off of a helper from Nina Dunay at 6:21, the Lady Flames notched their final four goals of the frame in the final 2:30. Rich recorded her second tally of the game, before Britton set up Courtney Brown for her third score of the year. The freshman was able to find the back of the net despite being checked to the turf.
Brown then recorded her first career assist, setting up Rich for her third goal of the game. Dunay lit up the scoreboard with 33 ticks on the first-half game clock, scoring on a pass from Britton and sending the contest to the halftime break with the score at 9-5 in favor of the Lady Flames.
Elon climbed to within three with a pair of goals coming out of the intermission. Sydney Hesselbein and Sloane Kessler each found the back of the net, making the score 10-7 Liberty with 17:46 left in the game.
The Lady Flames put the match out of reach, going on a 3-0 run over a span of 9:58. Struss scored her fourth and fifth goals of the game, while Morgan Becker chipped in her third tally of the year, putting the home team in front 13-7. Struss' first score of the second half came on a free-position shot, making the junior six for eight on the year in free-position opportunities.
The Phoenix notched the final two tallies of the contest, but it was not enough as Liberty earned the 13-9 victory.
For the contest, the Lady Flames outshot the Phoenix, 37-26, including a 22-13 advantage in the second half. Liberty's 37 shots were the second most ever in a game, falling two short of the program record of 39 which was set on March 27, 2011 against Howard.
The remaining statistical categories were even as Liberty held the slight edge in ground balls, 23-20, and draw controls, 14-11. The 23 ground balls were the most this season for the Lady Flames. Liberty converted on 13 of 17 clear attempts compared to 12 of 21 successful attempts for the visitors.
Brown scooped up a game-high four ground balls, while Dunay snagged a team-best four draw controls.
Struss' five goals are the second most ever for a Lady Flame in a single game. The five markers push the attacker's season total to 11, moving her into a fifth place tie with teammate Jen Moyer for the most career goals (42) in program history.
Kristen Masullo played all 60 minutes in between the pipes for Liberty, stopping 13 shots en route to the victory. Rachel Ramirez also notched 13 saves in defeat for the Phoenix.
The Lady Flames go back on the road on Wednesday with a matchup against George Washington in the nation's capital. Game time is set for 3:30 p.m.