Erin Dombach (pictured) and Natalie Barr were both named to the All-Tournament team. (Photo courtesy of Red Rocket Photography)
Playing in the NorPac title game in just their first season of competition in the league, the Liberty Lady Flames fell just short, as Stanford claimed the championship, 3-0, on Saturday afternoon at Longwood's Athletics Complex.
The loss ended Liberty's eight-game winning streak, as the Lady Flames concluded the season with an overall record of 16-6. Liberty's 16 wins marks a 10-win improvement over its inaugural season from a year ago. With the win, Stanford improves to 15-6 on the season and advances to a NCAA Tournament play-in game on Tuesday.
Saturday's match pitted both NorPac division winners, as Liberty was the Eastern Division's top seed and Stanford held the No. 1 seed in the Western Division.
Liberty recorded its first shot in the 16th minute of play. Natalie Barr forced a Stanford turnover for the Lady Flames and led a two-on-two break toward the Cardinal circle. The freshman dribbled toward the right side and then spun back to the center of the circle and laced a reverse shot toward the cage, which sailed wide left.
The Lady Flames shut down the Cardinal on their first penalty corner of the contest in the 22nd minute. Stanford's Becky Dru lined a shot on goal, but Liberty goalie Mallory Cuccio reached out and deflected the shot wide of the cage.
Liberty's offense worked itself into the Stanford circle for a couple of scoring opportunities with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first half. The Lady Flames notched a pair of shots and two penalty corners, but were not able to find the back of the goal as the game remained scoreless.
The Cardinal broke through with 56 seconds remaining in the opening stanza. Alex McCawley dribbled the ball toward the top of the Liberty circle and passed to the left side. Maddie Secco collected the pass and lined it into the cage to put Stanford on top 1-0 heading into the half.
Stanford outshot the Lady Flames in the opening 35 minutes, 7-3, while Liberty held the edge in penalty corners, 2-1.
Coming out of the halftime break, the Cardinal quickly extended its lead to 2-0. McCawley sent a hard pass into the circle from the right side and Lauren Becker buried it into the goal just 29 seconds into the second half.
The Lady Flames battled back in the 42nd minute as Barr made a run into the Stanford side of the field and ripped a pass into the circle. Sarah Gipe redirected the pass, but her shot attempt carried just wide of the cage.
With just over 12 minutes elapsed in the second half, Liberty once again forced a pair of penalty corners and collected two more shot attempts. The Stanford defense turned away both shots by the Lady Flames as the scored remained 2-0.
The Cardinal tacked on its third goal of the game in the 57th minute. Dru ripped a shot off of a direct corner into the left side of the cage. Shannon Herold and Hope Burke both collected assists on the play for Stanford.
The Lady Flames' Erin Dombach and Gipe each tallied a shot in the final minutes of play, but Stanford goalie Dulcie Davies saved both attempts. The score remained 3-0 as the final seconds ticked toward zero.
For the game, the Cardinal held the edge in shots, 14-9, while Liberty forced five penalty corners to Stanford's three.
Cuccio notched five saves in goal for Liberty, while Davies stopped three shots for the Cardinal.
In recognition of their outstanding play during the three-day tournament, Liberty's Barr and Dombach were named to the 2012 NorPac All-Tournament team. Stanford's Becky Dru was named the MVP.