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NCAA Tournament Preview: Liberty at North Carolina

November 11, 2016  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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NCAA Tournament Preview: Liberty at North Carolina

2016 Big South Women's Soccer Champion Liberty will make its third NCAA appearance in the last four years, Saturday. For the second consecutive year, the Lady Flames will square off with the No. 2 seed North Carolina Tar Heels at Fetzer Field. Match time is schedule for 1 p.m.

Liberty (14-7) captured its conference-record sixth Big South title with a 2-1 overtime over High Point at Bryan Park in Greensboro, N.C. this past Sunday. With the victory, first-year head coach Nate Norman's team has won eight straight games, the longest in school history. The streak is tied for the fourth longest active streak in the country.

North Carolina (13-4-4) and Liberty will be meeting for the third time in the NCAA Tournament. The Tar Heels have won both meetings in 2013 and 2015.

The winner of Saturday's contest will advance to play the winner of the Kansas and Missouri, next week.

How to Follow the Flames
The game will be webcast nationally on ACC Network Extra with live streaming on ESPN3 and Watch ESPN.  Live stats will be available through GoHeels.com and will be available by clicking on the appropriate link on the women's soccer schedule/results panel on LibertyFlames.com.

A Look at Liberty
A goal by Gabrielle Farrell in overtime allowed Liberty to secure a 2-1 victory over High Point and its sixth Big South Championship, Sunday at Bryan Park in Greensboro, N.C.

The Lady Flames' eight-game winning streak is the longest in program history and tied for the fourth longest active streak in the nation. Liberty has outscored its opponents, 30-3, since Oct. 1, posting a 9-1 record.

Forward Jennifer Knoebel was named the Big South Tournament MVP and was joined by Farrell, defender Jordan Kestel and goalkeeper Holly Van Noord on the All-Tournament team.

First team all-conference selection Isabella Habuda also scored in Sunday's contest. Habuda leads the Lady Flames with 10 goals and 25 points on the season. She also has five assists. The midfielder's point total is the most by a Liberty since Aimee Luurtsema's 31 in 2010.

The 2016 Big South Freshman of the Year and all-conference first team member Farrell has six game-winning goals to lead Liberty and is second on the Liberty with eight goals, eight assists and 24 points. The forward is second on Liberty's all-time freshman scoring list.

With three goals and two assists during the Big South tournament, Knoebel has posted 20 or more points each of the last two seasons. The junior has reached career highs with seven goals and 21 points. She also has seven assists.

Forward Devon Jones also has set personal season highs. The forward has netted seven goals, four assists and 18 points.

Liberty had its school record seven-game shutout streak come to an end on Sunday. The Lady Flames had not allow a goal for 687:06 of play until High Point scored during the 14th minute of the match.

The 2016 Big South Defensive Player of the Year and all-conference first team goalkeeper Holly Van Noord made seven saves on Sunday. The redshirt senior has posted a 0.73 goals-against average and a save percentage of .875. She led the Big South in both categories this season.

Van Noord has posted eight shutouts in 2016 and has extended her Big South and Liberty career shutout record to 41.

Van Noord has been aided by a strong group of defenders in front of her. Kestel, Big South All-Conference member Sami Santos and Hadley Jones have helped to limit the Lady Flames' opponents to a Big South-leading 17 goals and 0.81 goals per game, this season.

Van Noord, Farrell Garner Major Conference Awards
Redshirt senior Holly Van Noord and freshman forward Gabrielle Farrell each received a top Big South Conference honor, Friday. Van Noord was named the 2016 Big South Defensive Player of the Year, while Farrell garnered the 2016 Big South Freshman of the Year honor.  The awards are voted on by the conference's head coaches.

It is the second time in Van Noord's career that she has been named the conference's Defensive Player of the Year.  The goalkeeper won the award in 2014. Meanwhile, Farrell becomes only the second Liberty freshman to win the conference's Freshman of the Year award. Lady Flame Summer Able was selected as the conference's Co-Rookie of the Year in 1994.

Five Lady Flames Named to All-Conference Teams
Five Liberty women's soccer players have earned all-conference honors, as voted on by the conference's coaches.

Goalkeeper Holly Van Noord, forward Gabrielle Farrell and midfielder Isabella Habuda were each named to the first team, while forward Jennifer Knoebel and defender Sami Santos were selected to the second team.

Van Noord also was named to the Big South All-Academic team, while Farrell and Sierra Lam were selected to the Big South All-Freshman squad.

A Look at North Carolina
The North Carolina Tar Heels will make their 35th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, Saturday. The Tar Heels are the only school in the nation to have made the field in every year of the tournament's existence. Regarded as one of the most storied programs in NCAA Division I women's soccer, North Carolina has won 21 of 34 NCAA national championships all-time.

North Carolina received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and is the No. 2 seed in its quadrant of the bracket. The Tar Heels have lost only one game since September 16. After playing to a 0-0 tie, North Carolina fell on penalty kicks, 4-3, to Florida State in the ACC Championship game on Sunday.

Forward Bridgette Andrzejewsk, the ACC Freshman of the Year, leads the Tar Heels with nine goals and 20 points. Junior Annie Kingman has scored five goals and a team-leading five assists for 15 points and All-ACC team member Megan Buckingham has 11 points on four goals and three assists.

Lindsey Harris has played in all 20 of North Carolina's games this season. Harris has posted a 0.69 goals-against average and a .844 save percentage.

Liberty and the Big South Championship
Liberty won its sixth conference title on Sunday, setting a new Big South record for women's soccer conference titles. The Lady Flames were making their ninth finals appearance, the most in conference history. Liberty has posted a 6-1-2 record in the finals.

In addition, the Lady Flames have appeared in the finals four straight years, winning three times. Liberty previously made three straight trips to the Big South final from 1999 to 2001.

Liberty is 27-8-7 all-time in Big South Championship games and captured titles in 2000, 2001, 2005, 2013, 2015 and 2016. The Lady Flames' leads the conference in tournament victories.

News & Notes

  • Liberty has posted a 9-1 record, outscoring its opponents, 30-3, since October 1.
  • Liberty's eight-game winning streak is longest winning streak in program history, surpassing the 2005 Lady Flames, who won seven consecutive matches during their march to the Big South title.
  • With their seventh consecutive shutout, a 4-0 win over Campbell in the Big South semifinals, Liberty set a new program record. Head Coach Nate Norman's team surpassed the previous five-straight blank sheets each by the 2009 and 2013 teams.
  • With eight points during the Big South tournament, two-time all-conference forward Jennifer Knoebel continues to climb up the Liberty all-time lists. The junior will enter the weekend tied with midfielder Sylvia Betancourt (2008-11) for third on Liberty's all-time points list with 55. In addition, she is second on Liberty's career assists list with 21 and is four away from tying Brittany Aanderud (2013-15) as the program's all-time leader with 25.
  • Big South All-Conference first team midfielder Isabella Habuda has entered the top five on Liberty's all-time single season goals and points list. The midfielder is fifth on both lists with 10 goals and 25 points.
  • 2016 Big South Freshman of the Year Gabrielle Farrell is second on Liberty's all-time freshman scoring list with 24 points. Forward Lauren Coffey scored 32 points during his freshman season in 1999.
    Farrell has moved into a tie with current teammate Jennifer Knoebel (2015) and Madison Short (2010) for fourth on Liberty's single season assist list with eight.
  • Two-time Big South Defensive Player of the Year Holly Van Noord holds the Big South and Liberty record with 41 career shutouts.  Van Noord broke the conference mark on Sept. 4 with her 34th shutout in a 1-0 victory over James Madison and recorded his latest shutout in the Lady Flames' 4-0 win over Campbell in the Big South semifinals this past Friday.
  • Van Noord is currently on pace to finish her career as Liberty's career goals-against average leader. The redshirt senior heads the list with a 0.77 career GAA. In addition, she has posted three of the top five best GAA's in a season in program history, and her 2014 season with a 0.69 GAA is a school record.
    Van Noord is second on Liberty's career saves list with 395. Sarah Hutchinson, 1994-97, holds the program mark with 461.
  • Head Coach Nate Norman is the first Liberty head coach to lead his team to a Big South Championship and a double-digit win total during his first season. The Lady Flames' 14 victories are most ever in a head coach's inaugural season.