No. 3 seed Liberty scored three goals in a 22-minute span and the Lady Flames' defense held No. 1 seed UNC Asheville to just fives shots to defeat the Bulldogs, 3-0, in the Big South Women's Soccer title game Sunday afternoon at Eagle Field on the campus of Winthrop University.
With the victory, Liberty claims its Big South-record third Women's Soccer Tournament championship and third berth in the NCAA Tournament since 2000.
Liberty took the lead in the 48th minute when Tanya Payne converted on a penalty kick, beating a diving Michelle Mattos in the right corner of the net for the 1-0 advantage. It marked the first goal in the Big South title game since the 2002 championship contest.
At 65:06, a streaking Mandee Judd came through the middle and scored the second goal for Liberty, this time on her own rebound as Mattos made a save but couldn't get the ball out of the box. Judd added her second score of the game four minutes later off a corner kick.
The Lady Flames held UNCA shot-less until Hilary McKay's left-footed ball in the 42nd minute was saved by LU's Sonia Rodriguez. Rodriguez tallied two saves on the day, while Mattos had four stops in the losing effort.
Liberty, playing in its third Big South title game and first since 2001, scored nine goals in the tournament, the most by one team since Radford scored 10 in the 2002 event. The Lady Flames' three goals tied the title game record, set by Elon in 1999.
Liberty (12-6-2) receives the conference's automatic berth to the 2005 NCAA Tournament, which begins Friday, Nov. 11, at campus sites. Pairings will be announced Monday, Nov. 7, at 5:00pm EST live on ESPNews. Liberty is riding a school-record seven-game win streak into the NCAA Tournament, its first NCAA postseason appearance since 2001. UNC Asheville, making its third Big South championship game appearance in four years and sixth overall, end its season at 13-6.
LU's midfielder Rachel Bendzlowicz was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player and earned a spot on the All-Tournament team, which is as follows:
2005 Big South Women's Soccer All-Tournament Team Rachel Bendzlowicz, Liberty (MVP) Brittney Bench, Liberty Amy Oberlin, Liberty Rachel Hetrick, Liberty Shoshana Fried, UNC Asheville Sarah Paul, UNC Asheville Emily Langill, UNC Asheville Emma Mattsson, Charleston Southern Miki Wilson, Charleston Southern Jonita Hooker, Radford Kara Ramer, Radford Erica Devine, Winthrop Blair Monroe, Coastal Carolina Traci Andersen, High Point Ashley Welch, Birmingham-Southern QUOTES Liberty Coach James Price "It feels like a lot longer between championships (three years) to me. The chemistry on this team is just amazing. It is great that they could win a championship."