With the calendar turning over to July 1 today, Liberty's field hockey program begins its first day as an affiliate member of the BIG EAST Conference.
LFSN reporter Nick Pierce recently had a chance to talk with Lady Flames' Head Coach Jodi Murphy, who has been at the helm of the program since its first season in 2011.
On Dec. 8, the BIG EAST Conference announced it would be adding Liberty and Quinnipiac as affiliate members in field hockey, starting in 2016 and will be eligible to compete for the conference championship immediately.
The addition of Liberty to the BIG EAST brought to a close a year-long search for conference affiliation for the Lady Flames' nationally ranked field hockey program.
The Lady Flames previously spent three years as a member of the NorPac Conference (2012-14), winning the conference title in 2013 and 2014.
Liberty competed as an independent during the 2015 season, posting a 12-6 record and finishing the year ranked No. 14 in the final NFHCA Division I Coaches Poll.
During the 2016 field hockey season, the BIG EAST Conference will be comprised of the following eight teams: Connecticut, Georgetown, Liberty, Old Dominion, Providence, Quinnipiac, Temple and Villanova.
The BIG EAST Conference was represented by Connecticut in the 2015 Field Hockey Championship. UConn, a four-time national champion including back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014, advanced to the semifinals of this year's event before suffering a 3-1 setback to eventual national champion Syracuse.
At least two BIG EAST teams have been ranked in the Penn Monto/NFHCA Coaches Poll for all but one week over the last two seasons. BIG EAST field hockey has produced 20 Longstreth/NFHCA All-Americans over the last three years.
Liberty posted a 3-0 record against the current members of the BIG EAST in 2015, recording wins over No. 15 Old Dominion (2-1), Providence (4-3/OT) and Temple (3-2/2 OT).
Under the leadership of 2014 4U Field Hockey/NFHCA South Region Coach of the Year Jodi Murphy, Liberty's field hockey program has quickly risen to the top of the national ranks despite the program getting started in 2011.
Liberty won the NorPac Championship in 2013 and 2014, advancing to the NCAA Field Hockey Championship both seasons. In 2014, the Lady Flames picked up the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament victory when they downed Richmond, 3-1, in an NCAA Play-In game on Nov. 12.
The Lady Flames spent 10 weeks during the 2015 season ranked among the top 20 programs in the country. Liberty was nationally ranked inside the top 10 teams for three consecutive weeks this season, highlighted during the week of Oct. 14-20 when Liberty was ranked No. 8 (highest ranking in program history).
The Lady Flames finished the 2015 season ranked No. 2 in the country in points per game (12.00), goals per game (4.44), assists per game (3.11), scoring average (4.25) and scoring margin (2.18).
Quinnipiac finished the 2015 season with a 9-11 overall record and shared the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season title with Monmouth (5-1 in MAAC play).
Comments on Liberty Joining the BIG EAST Conference for Field Hockey
"Liberty University is privileged and honored to receive the membership invitation from the BIG EAST Conference for women's field hockey. We are proud of what Coach Jodi Murphy and our student-athletes have accomplished in such a short period of time since the team was established in 2011." Jerry Falwell, Jr. Liberty University President
"This is a very exciting day for Liberty University and our athletics program. Jodi Murphy and her staff have done an incredible job building our field hockey program into a Top 20 team. The goal for this team is to win the NCAA Division I National Championship, and we could not be more excited being a member of, and chasing this dream, as a member of the Big East Conference. We are truly grateful to all the member institutions for putting their trust in our program and will do all we can to be a contributing member." Jeff Barber Liberty University Director of Athletics
"I am thrilled we are joining the BIG EAST Conference. We are looking forward to the next chapter of our program being in a conference that has such a decorated tradition of excellence among the member institutions. I would like to thank the BIG EAST for affording us this amazing opportunity and all of the coaches and administrators at the member institutions for their tireless work in making this happen. Since starting this program in 2010 the Lord has been at work and has gone ahead of us every step of the way. I want to thank this team, my staff and our administration for their faith, hard work, patience and perseverance." Jodi Murphy Liberty University Head Field Hockey Coach
"We're very pleased to be able to add Liberty and Quinnipiac to our field hockey lineup for 2016. These additions will be make BIG EAST field hockey stronger. Both schools have proven records of success and are committed to excellence in the sport." Chris Schneider BIG EAST Associate Commissioner for Olympic Sports
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