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Liberty Set for Matchup at UMBC, Thursday

August 24, 2016  Lynchurg, Va.  RSS
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Liberty Set for Matchup at UMBC, Thursday

The Liberty women's soccer team will look to bounce back from a 0-2 start, Thursday, when it meets UMBC in Baltimore, Md. Head coach Nate Norman's squad is seeking its first win of the season, while the Retrievers enter the contest 1-1 and hope to return to the win column after a 2-0 defeat at Loyola (Md.), Sunday. Game time for Thursday's matchup at Retriever Soccer Park is slated for 5:30 p.m.

How to Follow the Lady Flames
A live video stream will be available on Americaeast.tv. Live stats provided by the UMBC media relations office will also be available by clicking the appropriate link on the women's soccer schedule/results panel on LibertyFlames.com.

A Look at the Lady Flames
Liberty opened the season this past Friday, hosting No. 4 Virginia for the first time in program history. The Cavaliers proved why they were one of the nation's best, defeating the Lady Flames, 4-0 at Osborne Stadium. Goalkeeper Holly Van Noord recorded six saves, becoming the third Liberty goalkeeper in program history to surpass the 300-save mark.

On Sunday, Liberty traveled the Knoxville, Tenn., for a matchup with the Tennessee Volunteers.  In a competitive game that remained scoreless until the 77th minute, the Vols managed to strike with a late goal from Rylie O'Keefe, edging the Lady Flames, 1-0. Van Noord recorded 10 saves in the contest and currently leads the Big South with 16 saves. She is also 26th in the country according to the latest NCAA statistical summary, averaging eight saves per game.

Liberty is looking to build upon a 2015 campaign in which it captured its second Big South Championship in three years and went 13-8-1. The Lady Flames also posted eight conference victories for the third straight season, concluding Big South regular-season play with an 8-2 record. Liberty punched its ticket to the NCAA Tournament, squaring off with No. 3 seed North Carolina. The Tar Heels defeated the Lady Flames in the first round, 3-0 (Nov. 13, 2015).

UMBC at a Glance
The Retrievers opened the season on Friday with a 3-2 win over American. Alexa Quaranta led UMBC with two goals, while Nikki Saad posted the golden goal in the second overtime thanks to a Jamie Shiflett assist. Two days later, the Retrievers squared off with Loyala (Md.), dropping the contest, 2-0.

Leslie Wray is in her fifth season as head coach at UMBC, helping revitalize the program since her arrival. After the program registered just 14 wins over the six previous seasons, Wray guided the Retrievers to a program-record 13 wins in 2013 en route to an American East Championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance. The Retrievers followed up with 12 wins in 2014, but will look to bounce back after a 5-11-3 season in 2015.

Season History vs. UMBC
Entering Thursday's matchup, UMBC leads the all-time series with a 10-3-0 mark. During the 1989 season, the Retrievers forfeited a pair of games against the Lady Flames. A former member of the Big South Conference, UMBC took the next 10 contests versus Liberty before departing from the conference after the 1997 season. In 2005, Liberty won the most recent meeting in Baltimore, Md., edging the Retrievers, 3-2 (Aug. 26, 2005).

Liberty Sweeps BSC Preseason Honors
After capturing its record-tying fifth Big South championship, last year, the Liberty women's soccer team has swept the Big South preseason awards heading into the 2016 season. Junior forward Jennifer Knoebel garnered Preseason Attacking Player of the Year, while redshirt senior Holly Van Noord earned Preseason Defensive Player of the Year for the third straight season. The Lady Flames were also voted the preseason favorite for the third consecutive year and eighth time in program history, garnering 97 of 100 possible points in the coaches' poll.

2016 Big South Conference Preseason Women's Soccer Poll
Rk   Team (first-place votes) - Points
1. Liberty (8) - 97
2. High Point (1) - 90
3. Campbell (1) - 70
4. Longwood - 65
T5. Radford - 48
T5. UNC Asheville - 48
7. Charleston Southern - 45
T8. Gardner-Webb - 36
T8. Winthrop - 36
10. Presbyterian College – 15

Norman at the Helm
On April 21, Nate Norman became as Liberty's seventh head women's soccer coach in program history.

Norman comes to Liberty following a successful four-year run as the head women's soccer coach at Western Michigan. During his time with the Broncos, Norman posted a 44-27-14 record (60.0 winning percentage) and led Western Michigan to Mid-American Conference titles in 2013 and 2015.

Norman earned MAC Coach of the Year honors in 2015 after leading Western Michigan to its second conference title in three seasons. The Broncos tied a program record with 14 victories en route to a 14-4-4 season.

Norman was also named the NSCAA Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year where Western Michigan ranked No. 7 in the final NSCAA Great Lakes Region coach's poll.