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No. 20 Liberty Set to Host Richmond in NCAA Play-In Game

November 11, 2014  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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2014 NCAA Game Notes

Liberty makes its second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division I Field Hockey Champion­ship on Wednesday with a home contest against the Richmond Spiders in the Play-In round. The game is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. at Liberty Field Hockey Field, with the winner advancing to face No. 1 overall seed North Carolina on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Liberty at a Glance

The Lady Flames defeated No. 4 Stanford on Saturday, 1-0, claimining their second NorPac Champi­onship title in a row and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Flames reached the title game with a semifinal win over California on Friday, 5-1. With the victory over the Cardinal, Liberty is now 2-1 all-time in its three years in the NorPac Conference.

Not only did the upset over Stanford lift the Lady Flames into the NCAA tournament, it also elevated them into the 2014 Penn Monto/NFHCA Division I Coaches Poll. For the first time in program history, Lib­erty cracked the Top 20, sitting at No. 20 entering Wednesday's contest.

Liberty enters Wednesday's game with a 13-7 (4-0 NorPac) overall record, riding a four-game win­ning streak heading into the NCAA Tournament. The Lady Flames' last setback came on Oct. 19 against No. 1 North Carolina, 4-0. During its current winning streak, Liberty has outscored its opponents by a combined 18-2 tally and has posted two shutouts.

Sarah Gipe (43 points), Ashlee Krulock (30 points) and Bethany Barr (17 points) lead a Liberty of­fense which is averaging 3.60 goals per game, tied for second in the nation with North Carolina. Gipe paces the team with 18 goals, while also adding seven assists. Ashlee Krulock brings to the table 11 goals and a team leading eight assists. Sophomores Bethany (7 goals, 3 assists) and Serena Barr (4 goals, 8 assists) also have helped aid in the potent attack.

Gipe was one of three Lady Flames selected to the first team all-conference this year at the league's annual awards banquet. Alongside Gipe on the first team were sisters Serena and Bethany Barr. Krulock rounded out the all-conference honorees as she was selected to the all-conference second team.

Goalkeeper Mallory Cuccio has had an equally strong season on the defensive end, notching a personal-best 13 wins. The Colorado Springs, Colo., native holds a 1.65 goals-against average and a .697 save percentage. Cuccio has recorded a personal-best four shutouts to go along with a personal single-season high 76 saves, the second most single-season saves in program history.

Richmond at a Glance

The Spiders punched their ticket to the NCAA Field Hockey Championship with a thrilling 1-0 over­time victory over Massachusetts on Saturday in the Atlantic 10 Championship. Richmond will be making its eighth overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament, and first since 2011. The Spiders enter Wednes­day's matchup with a 12-9 overall record.

Richmond ranks fourth in the A-10 in scoring margin (0.45) and third in goals against average (1.92). Rebecca Barry, the A-10 Offensive Player of the Year, paces the Richmond attack with 34 (15 goals, 4 assists) points on the season. First-team all-conference honoree Amy Cooke enters Wednesday's contest second on the team in points with 11, including a team-leading five assists.

Goalkeeper Kelley Wentling stands in the way of the potent Liberty offense, holding a record of 11-7 with 57 saves. Wentling has an A-10-best seven shutouts this season, while ranking fourth in the league in goals-against average (1.09). The second-team all-conference member ranks 29th in the nation in save percentage (.730).

How to Follow the Game

Live stats and a live video stream of the game will be made available courtesy of the Liberty Athletics De­partment. Both the live stats link and the live video link can be found by visiting the field hockey schedule/results page on LibertyFlames.com. Fans can also follow the game through Twitter updates from @LUGameday and @libertyFH.

Heating Up at the Right Time

Liberty is currently riding a four-game winning streak heading into Wednes­day's contest against Richmond. Prior to the current streak, the Lady Flames held a season-long eight-game winning streak, followed by a three-game losing skid. In the current streak, Liberty is outscoring opponents 18-2, recording two shutouts including the 1-0 shutout against Stanford in the NorPac Championship. Thanks to the current streak and strength of schedule, the Lady Flames have leaped into the NFHCA Top 20 Coaches' Poll for the first time, coming in at No. 20.

Liberty vs. Top 20 Opponents

Without a doubt, the Liberty Lady Flames have faced adversity this season, squaring off against eight Top 20 opponents. During the regular season, Liberty finished 2-5 against Top 20 opponents, with the two wins coming against then No. 12 Wake Forest and then No. 11 Louisville. Liberty nearly came away with upsets over then No. 9 Duke and then No. 6 Virginia, falling in the end. The third and final Top 20 win came when it mattered most, against then No. 4 Stanford in the NorPac Championship, 1-0, launching Liberty into the "Big Dance" for the second consecutive year.

Liberty vs. A-10

Entering Wednesday's contest, Liberty holds a 5-4 all-time advantage over A-10 opponents. The Lady Flames fell at home earlier this year to VCU, 2-1, on Sept. 5 in the most recent A-10 matchup. Liberty's latest victory over an A-10 op­ponent came on Sept. 27, 2013, defeating Saint Louis 10-0 at home.

Lady Flames At Home

This season, Liberty is 8-3 in contests played in the friendly confines of Liberty Field Hockey Field in Lynchburg, Va. Following its first weekend home setback, Liberty has won eight of the last nine home games, with the lone loss coming against No. 1 North Carolina on Oct. 19. In the 11 home games on the season, the Lady Flames are outscoring opponents 48-13.

Sharing the Wealth

Liberty enters the contest ranked eighth in the nation in assists per game (2.50). The Lady Flames have distributed 50 assists on the season, the second most assists in a single-season in program history. Alongside assists, Liberty has seen several players score an assortment of goals, led by Sarah Gipe with 18 goals, a new personal single-season best. Gipe is tied for eighth in the nation in goals per game with 0.90, sitting one goal behind Natalie Barr for the most goals in a single season. Ashlee Krulock is the only other double figure goal scorer on the squad with a personal best 11 goals. Seven more players have four or more goals on the season.

Notable Richmond Alums

Lady Flames head coach Jodi Murphy and assistant coach Jacki Raithel con­cluded their college careers as members of the Richmond Spiders field hockey squad. Murphy continued her stint with Richmond, coaching the Spiders for three seasons, helping guide the team to the NCAA tournament in 2009. Liberty has yet to square off against Richmond since the arrival of the program, until now.