Big South Freshman of the Year Gabrielle Farrell made her only shot of the day count, as the rookie secured a 2-1 overtime victory for No. 2 seed Liberty over No. 1 seed High Point, this afternoon's Big South Women's Soccer Championship title game at Bryan Park.
With the victory, Liberty (14-7) claims its Big South record sixth conference title and the first title under Lady Flames' first-year head coach Nate Norman. The Lady Flames entered today's title game at a sun-drenched Bryan Park tied with High Point and Radford for most titles in Big South history.
Liberty advances to the NCAA Women's Soccer Championship with the Big South's automatic bid. The 64-team field will be announced on NCAA.com, tomorrow, at 4:30 p.m.
With its eighth straight win, Norman's team surpasses the 2005 Lady Flames for longest winning streak in school history.
The game marked the second time Liberty and High Point have squared off in the championship contest. The Panthers bested the Lady Flames on penalty kicks, 5-4, in 2014.
Liberty received goals from Big South first-team all-conference selection Isabella Habuda in the 51st minute and Farrell seven minutes into overtime to secure the win.
High Point's final goal of the 2016 came during the 14th minute of play by Annie Redovian. The Panthers finished the contest with a 19-9 shots advantage, including an 8-5 shots on goal edge. High Point also finished with a 7-4 lead in corner kicks.
The game featured the conference's Defensive Player of the Year award winners for the last three seasons. Liberty's Holly Van Noord, the award winner in 2014 and 2016, finished with seven saves, while High Point's Alex Hank, the 2015 honoree, had three stops.
The two top teams in the Big South standings came into the game riding a wave of defensive success. High Point, who finishes its season with a 13-6-2 record, had recorded five consecutive shutouts.
Liberty had not allowed a goal in 673:57 of play coming into the afternoon, resulting in a program-record seven straight shutout victories.
The Panthers wasted little time going on the attack, getting the game's first shot attempt off 42 seconds into the contest. High Point's Becca Rolfe tried to find Kelsey Perrell with a strong flip throw-in inside the 18-yard box, but her header was blocked by Liberty defender and cleared.
The Lady Flames countered three minutes later with their first shot of the afternoon. Habuda's shot fired from the left side of the box was collared by Hank.
Play settled into the midfield during the next 10-plus minutes until another lengthy flip throw-in by Rolfe helped put the No. 1 seed on the scoreboard.
The junior found Bailey Beattie who sent a header toward the goal. Liberty's Van Noord was able to deflect the attempt, but not able to control. Redovian continued to pursue the loose ball and score her first goal of the season off the rebound at the 13:09 for a 1-0 advantage.
The Panthers continued to control play after ending Liberty's 687:06 shutout streak. High Point sent crossing shots from both sides of the field. Rolfe made the first attempt during the 20th minute and Brie Jean-Charles followed during the 24th minute, which were stopped by Van Noord.
The Lady Flames made a quick transition down the field 30 seconds later. Big South Tournament MVP Jennifer Knoebel came free inside the 18-yard box for a shot, but Hank made the save.
Liberty started to control possession during the final 20 minutes of the half, but a pair of corner kicks by Baylee Gillmore did not force Hank to make a save.
Liberty continued its offensive pressure in the second half, getting an early scoring chance during the 47th minute. Farrell settled a crossing pass into the box and tipped it to Habuda in stride for shot. However, the midfielder slid her attempt wide.
The Lady Flames continued to apply pressure, resulting in the equalizer in the 51st minute. From the end line, Knoebel sent a crossing pass into the box. Habuda collected the loose ball in front of the net and ripped a shot into the back of the net for her 10th goal of the season and 1-1 tie at 50:31.
During the 69th minute of the contest, Van Noord came out of net to stop a served ball into the box. Michele Micciche was able to get to the ball, before Liberty's goalkeeper could and had a shot from 12 yards out. Van Noord's second effort allowed the redshirt senior to get back into position to make the save.
The Panthers controlled possession for the remaining time in regulation, resulting in three shots. However, none reach the goal, as the Liberty defense blocked and cleared to send the contest into the decisive overtime period.
High Point managed to record the first three shots of the overtime period during a five-minute span. Meg Kowalski and Lindsay Elsen had shots that were off frame, while Paige Rombach got a shot off from inside the box which resulted in Van Noord's seventh and final save of the game.
Liberty managed to move the ball down the field, setting up the game-winning throw in by Gillmore. The midfielder's throw from left sideline towards the near post caused a scramble in front and deflected off several High Point defenders. Farrell collected the loose ball and put the ball into the back of the net for her sixth game-winner of her rookie season and the Big South title at 96:23.
The Lady Flames were well represented on the Big South Women's Soccer Championship All-Tournament Team. Knoebel was named the tournament MVP after finishing the three-game event with 11 shots, five shots on goal, three goals and two assists.
Knoebel was joined on the all-tournament team by Farrell, Van Noord and defender Jordan Kestel.
2016 Big South Women's Soccer Championship All-Tournament Team Jennifer Knoebel, Liberty (MVP) Gabrielle Farrell, Liberty Holly Van Noord, Liberty Jordan Kestel, Liberty Paige Rombach, High Point Lindsay Elsen, High Point Becca Rolfe, High Point Sydney Wallace, Longwood Maria Kirby, Longwood Shelby Denkert, Campbell Alexa Genas, Campbell Kelsey Fitzhugh, Charleston Southern Cassidy Ratliff, Radford Paige Trent, UNC Asheville Bri Nagle, Gardner-Webb