Liberty women's lacrosse won its home opener on Sunday, 14-9, over Robert Morris at the Liberty Lacrosse Field.
Sunday's victory caps off a 2-0 week for the Lady Flames, who are off to their best four-game start in program history at 3-1. Liberty sophomore Jenna Joyal matched a career high with four goals, while Brianna McCaffrey, Hannah Quast and Grace Fletcher each scored two times. Robert Morris (2-2) was led by Sophia Eureka's four-goal effort.
Liberty and Robert Morris were locked in a close contest at 11-9 with 14:27 remaining. The Colonials also were a man up due to a Lady Flames yellow card, but Liberty thwarted off the threat, closing on a 3-0 run over the final 14-plus minutes to preserve the victory.
The Lady Flames' victory was the first over the RMU Colonials in program history in four tries.
Liberty received strong goalkeeping throughout the contest, as well. Starter Aubrie Tarris (2-1) picked up her second win of the year, only needing to make two saves in the first half. Junior Katherine Widrick relieved Tarris in the second half and made several big saves. Widrick notched a season-high nine saves in just 30 minutes of action. The Colonials' Katelyn Miller (2-2) took the loss, making 13 saves on the afternoon against 14 goals.
The Colonials took a 3-1 lead in the first 7:48 of the match on goals from Dana Davis, Hannah Miller and Sophia Eureka (free-position). Over the next several minutes, Liberty used a 6-1 run of its own to take a three-goal advantage, 7-4, late in the first half.
During that stretch, Joyal scored three of her four markers, two of which came on free-position attempts. Her third goal during the run bolstered the Lady Flames' advantage to 6-4 at the 5:40 mark. Sixty-one seconds later, redshirt senior Michaela Rich found the back of the net for a 7-4 Lady Flames lead. Eureka scored the final goal of the half for Robert Morris.
Liberty led, 7-5, at the half. The hosts held advantages in shots (21-9) and ground balls (17-12), while the Colonials won seven draws compared to six for the Lady Flames.
Liberty scored the first three goals of the second half, building up a 10-5 lead with 25:08 remaining. Quast and McCaffrey scored 26 seconds apart on free-position shots, and McCaffrey assisted on Joyal's fourth goal of the day and team-best 11th of the season at the 25:08 mark.
RMU hung tough in the contest, trimming the deficit to two with a 4-1 run during the next 10:39 of play. Eureka tallied two goals during the spurt. Melanie Gandy's only goal of the afternoon, following a Rich yellow card, made it a two-goal game, 11-9, with 14:27 on the clock.
The Lady Flames still had to play a man down for the next 1:46. During that stretch, Widrick delivered three crucial saves, two off the stick off Madison Griffin and one from Melanie Gandy. Once the shorthanded situation expired, Liberty regained command of the day.
With under 10 minutes remaining, Lady Flames' midfielder Carly White drew a foul on Kelly Colegrove to create a free-position chance. The sophomore maneuvered through a converging defense and slipped a low shot past Miller into the right side of the goal. White's fifth goal of the season made it 12-9 Lady Flames with 9:51 on the game clock.
On Robert Morris' next possession, freshman Mia Toscano forced a turnover and was rewarded. White found a cutting Toscano in front of the net, and the freshman fired a shot from in close past the RMU goalkeeper. Toscano's goal staked Liberty to a 13-9 lead with 7:52 left.
Over the next several minutes, Toscano made her presence felt with two more caused turnovers, a ground ball, a draw control and a shot. Senior Abby Britton helped match the hosts' biggest lead of the game of five goals, 14-9, assisted by McCaffrey. The Kansas native's third goal of the season was the last of the afternoon.
Liberty outshot Robert Morris, 39-25, in the game and also had the upper hand in ground balls (27-22) and caused turnovers (17-7). Liberty successfully cleared the ball into the Colonials' zone throughout the day, converting 18-of-19 attempts. The Liberty defense caused RMU to go 15-of-23 on clears.
The Colonials won the battle in the draw circle, 13-12, aided by four draw controls apiece from Meghan Crouse and Clio Kerr.
The Lady Flames held RMU to just 2-of-12 on free-position shots while converting 7-of-15 eight-meter shots.
McCaffrey won five draws to lead the Lady Flames in that category. The Liberty junior supplemented the draws with a four-point (2 g, 2 a) performance to go along with three caused turnovers and a pair of ground balls.
Toscano contributed across the board as well with a game-high five caused turnovers (four after half), two ground balls and two draw controls. Freshman defender Maddi Little scooped up a team-best four ground balls and had two caused turnovers in the winning effort. RMU's Griffin had a game-high five ground balls for the visitors.
The Lady Flames, who entered the weekend 19th in the country and first in the Big South in assists per game (7.00), added six more on Sunday. White paced Liberty with a game-high assists and added three draw controls and two caused turnovers.
Liberty will hit the road for its next game on Wednesday at Old Dominion (1-1). First draw against the Monarchs is set for 4 p.m. at the L.R. Hill Sports Complex in Norfolk, Va.
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