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2009 Women's Soccer Season in Review

November 13, 2009  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The 2009 Lady Flames ended the season with a 9-7-3 overall record, and claimed the Big South regular season title.
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The 2009 Liberty women's soccer team will go down in the record books for making the most successful turnaround in program history.

The Lady Flames recovered from a dismal 2008 campaign, posting a 3-12-2 record and not qualifying for the conference tournament, to going 9-7-3 in 2009 and claiming the Big South regular season title. Head Coach Jessica Hain was named the Big South Coach of the Year, while three starters were first-team all-conference selections.

The first half of the season saw a tough non-conference schedule, and the Lady Flames began the year with a 1-6 record. After falling in the season-opener, 5-0, to No. 14 Virginia, Liberty rebounded with a road win over East Tennessee State, 2-1, on Aug. 30.

Next came a 3-0 loss to James Madison on Sept. 6, and a 3-1 loss to Old Dominion in the 2009 home opener. The Lady Flames were then on the road again, falling to Navy, 1-0 on Sept. 13, before traveling west. Liberty then dropped two matches to Valparaiso and Northern Illinois, 1-0 and 2-1, on Sept. 18 and Sept. 20.

Liberty returned home to wrap up their non-conference schedule, and this marked a turning point. The Lady Flames picked up two consecutive shutouts over visiting Francis Marion and Longwood, 4-0 and 1-0, on Sept. 24 and 30, at Osborne Stadium. Next, the team opened conference play by tying Big South opponent Charleston Southern, 1-1, on Oct. 3.

After defeating 2008 Big South Champion Coastal Carolina, 3-0, on Oct. 5, the Lady Flames traveling to Winthrop and Gardner-Webb, picking up two 1-0 victories. The victory over Winthrop on Oct. 9 came in double overtime, and the win over the Bulldogs was also an overtime situation.

The Lady Flames' successful run continued, and they extended their unbeaten streak to eight games after defeating High Point on the road on Oct. 17, 2-0, and beating Radford at home, 2-0, on Oct. 25. The eight-game unbeaten streak marked the longest in program history, surpassing the 2005 Lady Flames, who went seven consecutive games without a loss.

The streak ended there, however, as Liberty was defeated the following day by visiting VMI, 2-1.
In the final road trip of the season, the Lady Flames defeated UNC Asheville, 1-0, on Oct. 30, and tied Presbyterian, 0-0, on Nov. 1.

After claiming the Big South regular season title with a 6-1-2 conference record, the Lady Flames entered the Big South Women's Soccer Championship as the No. 1 seed, lining up against No. 8 Winthrop. After the match remained scoreless throughout regulation and two overtime periods, the game went into a shootout. The Lady Eagles came out on top after nine rounds of penalty kicks, eliminating Liberty from the tournament and concluding the Lady Flames' 2009 campaign.

Maria Owen, Silvia Betancourt and Karen Blocker were each named first-team all-conference, while Elia Lake received a second-team selection. Madison Short and Ariana Espinoza were named to the All-Freshman team, and Rachel Wisehart made the All-Academic team. In addition, Ashley Nyholt was named to the Big South All-Tournament squad.

Owen led the team with 16 points on the year, scoring six goals and recording four assists. Betancourt led the team with seven goals, and Aimee Luurtsema added three goals. Owen also led the Big South with 37 shots in conference play.

The Lady Flames defense enjoyed a stellar season, recording 10 shutouts. In addition, Liberty did not allow a goal in 576:23 during a stretch from Oct. 3 to Oct. 26.