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Liberty to Open 2017 Season at No. 8 Notre Dame and Butler, This Weekend

February 9, 2017  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The Liberty women's lacrosse team will open its 2017 season at No. 8 Notre Dame on Friday night and at Butler on Sunday morning.
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The Liberty women's lacrosse team will open its 2017 campaign in the state of Indiana at No. 8 Notre Dame on Friday night and at Butler on Sunday morning.

Prior to the team's departure for the Hoosier State, LFSN reporter Alan York interviewed fourth-year Head Coach Kelly Nangle for a season preview.

The Lady Flames will square off with the Irish at 7 p.m., Friday night at the Loftus Sports Center in Notre Dame. The team will then head to Indianapolis for a game vs. Butler on Sunday at 11 a.m. at the West Campus Athletic Field.

Liberty and Notre Dame met for the first time last year on March 9, 2016, with the then-No. 6 Irish earning a victory over the Lady Flames in Lynchburg.

The Butler Bulldogs women's lacrosse program will be playing its inaugural game on Sunday against Liberty. Butler officially added women's lacrosse on Oct. 21, 2015 and will be a member of the BIG EAST Conference.

How to Follow the Lady Flames
To follow along with the action on Friday night, live stats will be provided courtesy of Notre Dame Athletics. Find the link in the lacrosse schedule & results panel on LibertyFlames.com. Live video of the contest through ACC Network Extra is also available. Find the link for the broadcast on the lacrosse schedule & results panel on LibertyFlames.com.

For Sunday, live stats, courtesy of Butler Athletics, will be available for the match. Find the link for live stats on the lacrosse schedule & results panel on LibertyFlames.com.

For live in-game updates from both contests, follow @LUGameDay on Twitter.

Blend of Experience and Youth
Liberty Head Women's Lacrosse Coach Kelly Nangle's 2017 roster features a blend of veteran leadership and youth. The 28-player roster features seven seniors while welcoming in eight newcomers. Nangle's squad also has 10 sophomores and three juniors.

Redshirt senior Melanie Via and redshirt junior Faith Wells were appointed as team captains for the Lady Flames.

Lady Flames News and Notes

  • The Lady Flames return 40.7 percent of their scoring (70-of-172 goals) from a year ago. Kayla Foster (22 goals) and Michaela Rich (20 goals) are the top returning scorers from the 2016 team.
  • Goalkeepers Aubrie Tarris and Katherine Widrick are both back for their sophomore seasons in a Liberty uniform. Tarris drew 10 starts in 2016, while Widrick started eight contests. The two goalies both saw significant time in net, as Tarris logged 556:41 and Widrick logged 537:39. As a team, Liberty recorded more saves (158-117) than their opponents, last year.
  • The Lady Flames scored 9.56 goals/game last season and gave up 12.83 goals/game.
  • Liberty scored 15 or more goals in four contests last year, with a season-high 21 goals coming against Presbyterian on April 23, 2016, in Lynchburg.
  • As a team, the Lady Flames ranked eighth in the nation in ground balls per game (20.00) and 10th in caused turnovers per game (11.00)
  • Foster finished 2016 ranked No. 29 in the country in assists (29) and No. 28 in assists per game (1.61).
  • The Liberty women's lacrosse program is 2-5 all-time in season openers.

 

2017 Big South Outlook
The Lady Flames were tabbed to finish fourth in the Big South Conference women's lacrosse preseason poll released on Jan. 24.

The Flames garnered one second-place vote in the poll and 40 total points. High Point, the runner-up to Winthrop at the 2016 Big South Women's Lacrosse Championship, received six first-place votes and was picked to finish first in the league (62 points). Winthrop followed closely behind with the remaining two first-place votes and 55 points, followed by Campbell (47 points).

Longwood (36 points), Presbyterian (18 points), Radford (18 points) and Gardner-Webb (12 points) rounded out the poll.

Sophomore attacker Kayla Foster and sophomore midfielder Brianna McCaffrey were both selected to the Big South's preseason all-conference team.

Liberty opens Big South play on April 1 at Presbyterian. The 2017 Big South Women's Lacrosse Championship will be held on April 29, May 5 and May 7.

2016 Recap
In 2016, the Lady Flames finished 5-13 overall and placed fifth in the Big South at 4-4. They won league games against Longwood (11-10), Gardner-Webb (16-10), at Radford (20-4) and vs. Presbyterian (21-6) on Senior Day.

Kayla Foster was named the program's first-ever Big South Conference Freshman of the Year, while redshirt senior captains Colleen Ekert and Callie Francis were named to the all-conference first team. Senior captain Kallie Britton, Foster, and Brianna McCaffrey made the all-conference second team, while Melanie Via was honorable mention all-conference. Kelly Belue was honored on the Big South All-Academic team.

Scouting Notre Dame
The No. 8 Irish (0-1) opened their season on Sunday with a 14-13 home loss against No. 9 Northwestern.

In 2016, Notre Dame went 14-7 and finished with the No. 7 ranking in the Inside Lacrosse Poll. The Irish led the nation in caused turnovers per game (14.00) last year and ranked seventh in scoring offense (13.43) and points per game (20.05), eighth in ground balls per game (20.00) and ninth in both assists per game (6.62) and scoring margin (5.43).

The Irish are coached by Christine Halfpenny, who is in her sixth season in charge of the program.

Notre Dame's 2017 roster is comprised of 10 freshmen, seven sophomores, four juniors and seven seniors. Senior Courtney Fortunato is the team's top returning offensive player this year. She scored 64 goals in 2016, good for seventh-best in the country. Fortunato's 91 total points placed No. 5 in the nation a year ago.

Sophomore Samantha Giacolone (0-1, 14.00 GAA) will likely handle the goalkeeping duties for the Irish.

Scouting Butler
Butler's roster is full of youth in its first year of competition, with 16 freshmen, seven sophomores, three juniors and two seniors.

The Bulldogs are coached by Cecil C. Pilson. Pilson led the Mercyhurst women's lacrosse program for 11 years prior to being introduced as the Butler head coach on Dec. 16, 2015.  

Butler joined the BIG EAST Conference and was picked to finish 10th in the league this spring.

The Bulldogs have two goalkeepers on the roster, junior Allie Storke and freshman Haley Rayburn, who will likely see time in net. On Monday, Pilson announced midfielder Emily Annand, attacking midfielder Madison Christian and midfielder Haley Hallenbeck as team captains for the 2017 season.