Two of the Big South's best faced off at Osborne Stadium Saturday night, as Liberty and Campbell squared off in a battle to remain in first place in the conference standings. The Lady Flames once again rely on Isabella Habuda, who delivered the game-winning goal midway through the second half to defeat the Fighting Camels 1-0.
With the win, Liberty improves to 6-5-3 and remains unbeaten in the Big South (4-0-1), while Campbell falls to 7-5-1 and 3-1-1 in the Big South. With the win and a High Point loss, Liberty now sits in sole possession of first place in the conference standings.
"Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good," head coach Lang Wedemeyer said. "There were times where we played excellent soccer against a quality team with dynamic attacking players but with a few big saves from Mel (Jayroe) and a few defensive stops we were able to keep a good team off the board,"
Once again, Habuda came through in the clutch for the Lady Flames, scoring in the 62nd minute to give Liberty a 1-0 advantage. Kayleigh Kardos carried the ball into the left corner of the box. After going one-on-one, Kardos beat her defender and delivered a pass to the far right post for Habuda to place a header on the far lower-90 for a goal.
Habuda has scored Liberty's last five goals and leads the team with 13 points (5 goals, 3 assists). The Lady Flames' backline had to deal with pressure all night from Campbell's attack, but goalkeeper Melody Jayroe recorded her second straight shutout and third during conference play. Campbell outshot Liberty, 13-12.
"The goal was great because we have been looking for ways to create chances and Kayleigh's ball was great," Wedemeyer added. "Bella (Habuda) made a bice run and it is great to see her finish her opportunities right now."
Liberty opened up the game controlling possession and dictating the pace of play. Although few shots were attempted in the first half, both teams had their chances. Liberty had two shots within the box in the first 16 minutes of action. Liberty's best shot at scoring early in the game came in the 16th minute when a collection of passes led to Jennifer Knoebel dribbling into the box. Knoebel set up Isabella Habuda with a pass for a shot from five yards out, but Habuda's attempt sailed over the crossbar.
Less than two minutes later, Campbell responded with its second shot attempt of the contest with a strike from Cam O'Neal. Jayroe made a diving save, preventing the Fighting Camels from jumping on the scoreboard.
Less than a minute from making a substitution, Liberty's Sarah Erickson made an immediate impact on the game with a header off a corner kick from Abigail Persson that almost gave Liberty its first goal. In the 35th minute, Persson found Erickson in the box for a 10-yard header that made it past the goalkeeper, only to see a Campbell defender sitting on the post to prevent a goal and kicking the ball away to keep the match scoreless.
Looking to generate offense and opportunities in front of the goal, Campbell had six corner kicks in the first half. Liberty's defense did an exceptional job of keeping pressure away from Jayroe and not allowing a goal during the first 45 minutes. It was even 0-0 first half as Liberty outshot Campbell 4-3.
As Liberty started the match by controlling possession, Campbell returned the favor to open the second half. The Camels sent numbers forward. Looking to find the equalizer after Habuda's goal in the 62nd minute, Campbell attempted 10 shots in the second half, forcing Jayroe to make three saves.
Campbell was relentless in its pursuit of its first goal of the game, attempting eight shots in the final 28 minutes and two shots in the final two minutes of the game. Liberty's defense had to deal with 10 corner kicks throughout the game, but was able to keep the Fighting Camels from converting.
"It was getting a little hectic at the end but we were able to stay composed and pull out the win," defender Cora Duininck said. "We stayed consistent when we defended the corners and stayed in our position and cleared the ball out as soon as possible."
Liberty will return to action next weekend, when they travel for a midweek game at Presbyterian on Wednesday, Oct. 11.