With eight of eleven starters returning and a strong class of incoming freshman joining the program, the 2012 Liberty Lady Flames' field hockey team looks to build on its successful 2011 inaugural season.
In its first season of competition, Liberty posted a 6-11 record competing as an independent against a diverse group of opponents from each NCAA divisions.
Beginning this season Liberty will compete in the NorPac Conference. The Lady Flames will play in the conference's East Division joining existing members Appalachian State, Longwood, Radford and Davidson. The West Division is comprised of Stanford, California, Pacific, and UC Davis. Both Stanford and California were nationally ranked last season.
Liberty returns its top five performers in each offensive category from last season's squad, including sophomore Helen Doolittle who led the team in points (14), goals (7), shots (49), and shots on goal (25).
A Look at the Lady Flames by Position:
The Lady Flames return three talented sophomores from last season's squad: Abby Batdorf, Lindsey Hanks and Alex Hibbs.
Batdorf finished second on the team in points (9), shots (15), shots on goal (13) and also tied for second in goals (3) and assists (3). Cox, Hanks, and Hibbs each finished in the top five in at least three different offensive categories.
"I'm very excited about the speed and athleticism we have on the forward line this season," commented second-year head coach Jodi Murphy. "They are a feisty group who will compete for every ball and play hard until the final whistle."
Newcomers Hannah Doherty, Sarah Gipe, Morgan Mummau, Jacqueline Albert and Hannah Goldsborough will provide solid depth at the forward position.
Doolittle, who garnered a 2011 VaSID All-State second-team award, headlines the midfield line which also includes returnees junior Jordan Richardson and sophomore Mercedes Cox.
Richardson led the team in assists last season with four and also finished 4th on the team with six shots on goal.
"Helen is the most experienced player and as a result we will look to her to be the anchor for that line," stated Murphy. "She was the leader in many statistical categories last season and we anticipate much of the same from her this season. Mercedes is a player that grew tremendously last spring during off-season training. She has the ability to have a breakout season this fall.
Freshmen Erin Bartley and Abbey Basom will also be in the mix for playing time in the central midfield this season as well as Ashlee Krulock and Erin Dombach providing speed and endurance on the outside.
Junior Emily Dinsmore, sophomore Morgan DeMann and sophomore Megan Johnson will return to anchor the back line which will also feature incoming transfer Natalie Barr and freshmen Hannah Jones and Elly Chipman.
DeMann started in all 17 games last season while Dinsmore recorded 13 starts. Johnson also played in all 17 games last season, including 16 starts which tied her for second most on the team.
"Our back line returns after a busy season last fall. We are hopeful that with one season under our belt we are prepared and ready to make big plays in the defensive third limiting goal scoring opportunities and defensive penalty corners," noted Murphy. Regarding Barr, Murphy commented, "She will bring a lot of poise and discipline. Technically and tactically she will be a really strong leader for us."
Ann Jefferis was named to the NFHCA All-Region second team last season, starting all 17 games in goal for the Lady Flames. She will redshirt this season which opens the door for sophomore Brooke Morley to step into the starting role. Morley saw action in two games last season as the backup to Jefferis.
"Brooke has great size and a strong presence in the cage," stated Murphy. "She is eager and excited for the new challenge."
Freshman Mallory Cuccio will serve as the backup to Morley.
After playing only four home games in their inaugural season, the Lady Flames will play 11 contests at the Liberty Field Hockey Field in 2012. Overall Liberty will play 19 games including eight NorPac conference games.
The Lady Flames' road schedule is highlighted by a trip to Pennsylvania to open the season against Saint Joseph's and Lehigh as well as a late-September trip to St. Louis, Mo. for contests against Saint Louis and Missouri State.
The home schedule is highlighted by a six game home stand in October which includes four NorPac conference matchups against Radford, Longwood, Appalachian State, and Radford.
"Our schedule gives us an opportunity to play a lot of talented programs that are well coached," noted Murphy. "We are fortunate to be in an area where we can host high caliber teams. The opportunity to travel to Pennsylvania is always exciting as it allows many of the girls to play in their home state in front of their family and friends."
Regarding the NorPac Conference, Murphy commented, "Having a conference home is vitally important to growing this program in the direction we would like to go. The conference is on the rise and we are excited to be a part of it."
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