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Liberty Opens Season at James Madison and Duke

August 24, 2016  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The Lady Flames begin the 2016 season with a pair of ranked opponents, James Madison and Duke, on Friday and Sunday.

The Lady Flames begin the 2016 season with a pair of ranked opponents, James Madison and Duke, on Friday and Sunday.

The No. 13 Liberty field hockey team starts the 2016 season with a pair of ranked opponents on Friday and Sunday. The Lady Flames travel to No. 19 James Madison on Friday for a 6 p.m. match before traveling to No. 4 Duke on Sunday for a 1 p.m. game.

Liberty is 1-0 all-time against James Madison, with the win coming in last year's season-opener in Lynchburg. In that contest, six different players scored goals to lead the Lady Flames to a 6-3 victory on Aug. 28.

Liberty is 0-2 all-time against Duke, with the most recent defeat coming last season. The Blue Devils topped the Lady Flames, 3-2, in overtime in Lynchburg on Oct. 31.

How to Follow the Lady Flames
Live stats will be available for both matches by clicking the appropriate link on the field hockey schedule/results panel on LibertyFlames.com.

The game at Duke will be streaming live on WatchESPN and the ESPN App. Visit the field hockey schedule/results panel on LibertyFlames.com to access the link. No video streaming will be available for the James Madison contest.

Also, be sure to follow Liberty Gameday on Twitter (@LUGameday) for live in-game updates.

Lady Flames Facts
After capturing NorPac conference titles and making NCAA Tournament appearances in both 2013 and 2014, Liberty finished 2015 with a 12-6 overall mark as an independent. This year, the Lady Flames will begin competing in the BIG EAST Conference as an affiliate member. Liberty enters the 2016 season ranked No. 13 in the Division I Penn Monto/National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) preseason national poll.

The Lady Flames play a loaded schedule featuring each of the top five teams in the preseason poll (North Carolina, Syracuse, UConn, Duke and Virginia) in addition to their BIG EAST Conference slate that begins with a trip to Villanova on Sept. 16.

Liberty boasts seniors Serena and Bethany Barr, both preseason All-BIG EAST team selections. Serena was a Preseason Co-Defensive Player of the Year choice along with UConn's Anna Middendorf. She enters her senior campaign looking to climb even higher in the program's record books in several statistical categories. Serena currently ranks first in career assists (27), fourth in goals (21), fourth in points (69), third in shots (158) and fifth in game-winning goals (6).

Her junior season was filled with accolades, as she was named to the NFHCA South All-Region second team and VaSID All-State second team. Barr was also named a NFHCA Scholar of Distinction and to the NFHCA National Academic Squad. The Lurgan, Northern Ireland native finished 2015 ranked 36th in the nation in assists per game (0.50).

Much like her sister, Bethany Barr enters her senior season as one of the most accomplished players in program history. She ranks tied for fifth in career goals (20), third in assists (23), fifth in points (63) and sixth in shots (125). As a junior, Barr matched her sister with NFHCA South All-Region second team and VaSID All-State second team honors. She also earned a spot on the NFHCA National Academic Squad for a third straight year.

Liberty also returners formidable attackers in sophomore Abby Julius (3 g, 4 a, 10 pts) and junior Alynn Richardson (4 g, 8 pts). Other notable returners include junior midfielder Cassidy Bremner (1 g, 5 a, 7 pts), sophomore forward Pippa Best (2 g, 4 pts) and defender Rachel Suter (1 g, 1 a, 3 pts). Veterans Summer Parker (1 g, 2 pts) and Carrie Logie (19 career appearances) will provide valuable experience to the squad.

Goalkeeping duties will be the responsibility of junior Monica Hernick and freshman Allison Schaefer. Hernick made one appearance in goal in 2015 but will see much more time between the pipes this season. Schaefer, a two-time Pennsylvania All-State first team selection, will also look to make her mark in her first collegiate season.

The Lady Flames welcome in a strong 10-player freshmen class to replace last year's 10-player senior class. Two newcomers who figure to be a factor on the offensive end are Agueda Moroni and Kendra Jones. Moroni, a native of Cordoba, Argentina, will factor primarily in the midfield. Jones, a native of Mohnton, Pa., figures to see a lot of time as a forward. Sydney Baffone, Mallory Fortenbaugh, Merich Frizzell, Rebecca Hamlett, Jenny Kurlej and sisters Annika and Zosia Roberts comprise the remainder of the freshmen class and will be vital to the team's success.

Scouting James Madison
James Madison enters Friday's season opener ranked No. 19 in the NFHCA Division I Coaches Poll. Last season, the Dukes finished with a 14-6 record and 6-0 mark in Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play. Their season concluded with a 2-1 overtime loss to Delaware in the CAA title game.

The Dukes' roster is devoid of seniors but returns second-leading scorer Melissa Wilken (9 g, 10 a, 28 pts) and standout goalkeeper Sara Kraeutler (14-6 in 2015). Wilken, a sophomore, is a preseason All-CAA honorable mention while Kraeutler garned preseason All-CAA distinction.

Scouting Duke
Duke will open its season on Friday evening against William & Mary. The Blue Devils enter the season ranked No. 4 in the NFHCA Division I Coaches Poll. In 2015, the Blue Devils ended the year with a 14-7 record and 2-4 mark in ACC play. Duke reached the NCAA Tournament and picked up wins over Stanford and Virginia before losing to runner-up North Carolina, 2-0, in the national semifinals.

Junior forward Ashley Kristen, who led the team in assists and earned NFHCA All-South Region honors in 2015, was named to the 11-player ACC preseason team. The Blue Devils were picked to finish fourth in the conference in 2016 behind North Carolina, Virginia and Syracuse.

New Beasts of the BIG EAST
Liberty enters its first year as an affiliate member of the BIG EAST Conference. The Lady Flames will play a seven-game conference slate, starting at Villanova on Sept. 16. Liberty will also make a trip to 2013 and 2014 national champion UConn on Oct. 15.

The Lady Flames were picked to finish second in the conference's preseason poll behind only UConn.

Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Connecticut – 49 points (7 first-place votes)
2. Liberty – 40 points (1 first-place vote)
3. Old Dominion – 39 points
4. Temple – 30 points
5. Providence – 25 points
6. Villanova – 19 points
7. Quinnipiac – 13 points
8. Georgetown – 9 points

Coaching Staff Close-Up
Head coach Jodi Murphy is entering her sixth season at Liberty and has been in charge of the field hockey program since its inception in 2011. Murphy has guided the Lady Flames to a 65-36 overall record, three NorPac East Division regular-season crowns, two NorPac Championships and two berths in the NCAA Tournament. As an independent in 2015, the Lady Flames finished with a 12-6 overall mark and a No. 14 final ranking in the NFHCA Division I Coaches Poll.

Associate head coach Tilly Brampton has been on staff with Murphy since 2011. The pair has produced a prolific offense, most notably in 2015. Liberty ranked second in the nation in scoring average (4.25), second in points per game (12.00), second in goals per game (4.44), second in assists per game (3.11) and fourth in scoring margin (2.18).

The Lady Flames added Nikki Parsley as an assistant coach on May 1. Parsley will assist in many aspects for the Liberty field hockey program, including discipleship, recruiting, technical player development and tactical game understanding. She will assist the program with game analysis and quality control within the forward and midfield lines.

Finally, Liberty will have a familiar face as a graduate assistant coach in Natalie Barr. The sister of seniors Serena and Bethany Barr, she concluded her four-year playing career ranked first in program history in single-season points (49), game-winning goals (5), shots (106) and defensive saves (4). For her career, she ranks first in program history in goals (54), points (134), shots (308) and game-winning goals (10) and ranks second in assists (26).

Road Warriors
The schedule does not get any easier for the Lady Flames in the early part of the season. Following the match at Duke, Liberty continues its road trip with No. 2 and defending national champion Syracuse on Sept. 3. The match will be played on Hofstra's campus in Hempstead, N.Y.

The Lady Flames continue road play at Virginia on Sept. 12 followed by their BIG EAST opener at Villanova on Sept. 16. The team will finally begin its six-game home schedule against non-conference foe Longwood on Sept. 20 at the Liberty Field Hockey Field.