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Lady Flames Take on No. 1 North Carolina in NCAA First Round, Saturday

November 13, 2014  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Lady Flames Take on No. 1 North Carolina in NCAA First Round, Saturday

2014 NCAA Game Notes

Liberty squares off with No. 1 North Carolina for the second time this season, with this contest being in the NCAA Field Hockey Championship first round. The game is scheduled to start at 11:30 a.m. on Sat­urday at Francis E. Henry Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. The winner advances to the second round Sunday, to take on the winner of No. 9 Duke and No. 7 Northwestern at 2 p.m. at Francis E. Henry Stadium.

Liberty at a Glance

The Lady Flames defeated Richmond on Wednesday, 3-1, in the NCAA Field Hockey Championship Play-In game. The Lady Flames garnered the berth into the NCAA Tournament following their 1-0 upset over then No. 4 Stanford in the NorPac Championship.

Liberty entered Wednesday's contest as the newly ranked No. 20 team in the nation, according to the Penn Monto/NFHCA Division I Coaches Poll, a feat that the Lady Flames had never accomplished before. The Lady Flames rode a four-game winning streak and the new recognition into the NCAA play-in game.

Thanks in large part to Hannah Doherty's second-career multi-goal game, Liberty surpassed Rich­mond, 3-1, to win its first-ever NCAA Tournament contest. The Lady Flames enter the first round holding a five-game winning streak with the last setback coming on Oct. 19 against No. 1 North Carolina, 4-0. During its current winning streak, Liberty has outscored its opponents by a combined 21-3 tally and has posted two shutouts.

Sarah Gipe (45 points), Ashlee Krulock (30 points) and Bethany Barr (18 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 a program single-season record-tying 19 goals, while also adding seven assists. Ashlee Krulock brings to the table 11 goals and a team-leading eight assists. Sophomores Bethany (7 goals, 4 assists) and Serena Barr (4 goals, 9 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 NorPac'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 79 saves, the second most single-season saves in program history.

North Carolina at a Glance

The Tar Heels finished the regular season with a 16-2 overall mark, heading into the ACC Field Hockey Championships. North Carolina upended host Duke in overtime, 2-1, but failed to advance past Syracuse in the next round, losing 3-2 in overtime.

The Tar Heels enter the NCAA Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed, making their 31st appearance in the program's 34-year history. North Carolina has reached the final four six times in the past seven years, including 2013, falling to eventual champion Connecticut in the semifinals.

The Tar Heels are led offensively by All-ACC selections Charlotte Craddock and Emma Bozek, each contributing 12 goals on the season. Bozek also adds a team-leading 10 assists on the season. Nina Not­man (11 goals) and Loren Shealy (10 goals) round out the double-digit goal scorers for the North Carolina offense.

How to Follow the Game

Live stats and a live video stream of the game will be made available courtesy of the North Carolina 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 five-game winning streak heading into Saturday's contest against North Carolina. 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 21-3, 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 challenges 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

Following Wednesday's 3-1 victory over Richmond, Liberty holds a 6-4 all-time advantage over A-10 opponents. The Lady Flames fell at home earlier this year to VCU, 2-1, on Sept. 5, splitting the season series 1-1 with A-10 opponents.

Liberty vs. ACC

The Lady Flames squared off against five ACC opponents this season, with all five opponents being in the Top 20. Liberty finished 2-3 in the regular season against ACC opponents, winning the first two contests, 2-1, against then No. 12 Wake Forest and then No. 11 Louisville. The Lady Flames fell in the final three ACC matchups on the season, to Duke, Virginia and North Carolina.

Lady Flames On The Road

This season, Liberty is 5-4 in contests played away from Liberty Field Hockey Field. The Lady Flames are 2-4 in true road games, while holding an undefeated 3-0 record in neutral site games. Liberty's last loss on the road came back on Oct. 17, falling to No. 6 Virginia, 3-2 in overtime. In the nine away games on the sea­son, the Lady Flames are outscoring opponents, 24-20.

Sharing the Wealth

Liberty enters the contest ranked eighth in the nation in assists per game (2.52). The Lady Flames have distributed 53 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 19 goals, a new personal single-season best. Gipe is tied for eighth in the nation in goals per game with 0.90, tied with 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.