Liberty women's lacrosse used a 9-0 run spanning the end of the first half and midway through the second on the way to a 19-8 victory over the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs, Wednesday afternoon at the Liberty Lacrosse Field.
Liberty is now 9-3 overall and 2-0 in the Big South, while Gardner-Webb drops to 2-10 and 0-2 in the conference. With the win, the Lady Flames have equaled a program record for wins. Liberty won nine games in 2015 and advanced to the Big South Women's Lacrosse Championship that year during head coach Kelly Nangle's second season at the helm.
Brianna McCaffrey, the reigning two-time Big South Defensive Player of the Week, led Liberty with a four-goal effort to go along with five caused turnovers and six draw controls. The Lady Flames, who lead the nation in caused turnovers per game (14.09 per game), recorded 18 more on Wednesday. The Liberty defense only yielded 11-of-33 clear attempts for Gardner-Webb, including 5-of-20 in the first half.
Liberty junior attacker Kayla Foster scored three times, won a game-best eight draw controls and tallied an assist and two ground balls on the day. The Lady Flames scored a season-high eight free-position goals.
Gardner-Webb's Amanda Steinmuller paced her squad with two goals, two assists, two caused turnovers and two ground balls. Liberty's Hannah Quast, Michaela Rich and Emily Browne each notched two goals in the contest as well.
Liberty goalkeeper Aubrie Tarris (6-2) picked up her sixth win of the season, making one save in the game. The Lady Flames' Katherine Widrick made eight saves against just two goals over the final 42:06. Gardner-Webb's Katie Sylvester played the full 60 minutes, making 14 saves against 19 goals.
Liberty never trailed in the contest. The Lady Flames scored 34 seconds into the game, as White drove inside the eight-meter arc and ripped a shot into the top left corner past Sylvester. Rich added to Liberty's lead (2-0) at the 28:32 mark off a feed from White.
Free-position goals from Grace Fletcher and Browne made it 4-1, Lady Flames at the 24:30 mark. Following a Runnin' Bulldogs timeout, GWU scored four of the next five goals, including markers from Eliish Gately, Catherine Fox, Talen Francis and Steinmuller. Steinmuller's man-down goal evened the score at 5-apiece with 17:23 on the first half clock.
The Lady Flames scored the next three goals (McCaffrey, Quast and Jenna Joyal) for an 8-5 lead with 12:19 remaining in the first frame. Gately of Gardner-Webb scored 13 seconds later to make it 8-6.
Liberty's 9-0 run spanned 23:30 total to close the first half and start the second. During that stretch, six different Liberty players scored, highlighted by goals from: Foster (3), McCaffrey (2), Quast (1), Mia Toscano (1), Anna Keebler (1) and Emily Browne (1). During that stretch, Foster and Toscano scored man-down goals. Liberty had three man-down goals in the match, the second most in a single game in program history.
Keebler's free-position tally made it 14-6 Liberty with 50 seconds left in the first half and gave the Lady Flames an eight-goal edge at intermission.
The Lady Flames outscored the Runnin' Bulldogs, 5-2, in the second half. They closed out their 9-0 run with goals from McCaffrey, Browne and Foster. Both of Foster's goals in the second half came on feeds from Rich, the second of which made it 17-6, Liberty, with 16:16 left in the contest. Gardner-Webb's Steinmuller and Lindsey Lippert got the visitors within nine (17-8) with their goals, with the one from Lippert coming at the 13:00 mark.
The Lady Flames' last two goals were scored by Rich (from Foster) and Molly Blake (from Joyal, with 2:47 left).
Liberty outshot Gardner-Webb, 48-18, on the day and also held advantages in the draw circle (21-8), caused turnovers (18-12) and ground balls (26-22).
White had one goal, one assist, a game-high five ground balls, five draw controls and three caused turnovers.
Liberty is now 5-0 in the all-time series against Gardner-Webb. Over the last two years, they have outscored the Runnin' Bulldogs, 40-15, and recorded 99 total shots.
Liberty is back in action on Saturday at No. 25 High Point (8-2, 2-0 Big South) with first-place implications at stake. First draw from Vert Stadium in High Point, N.C., is slated for 2 p.m.
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