Liberty won a thrilling 12-11 Big South match over Winthrop on Senior Day, Saturday afternoon, at the Liberty Lacrosse Field.
The Lady Flames' Mia Toscano scored the game-winning goal with 3:31 remaining, and goalkeeper Katherine Widrick saved a shot from the nation's leading goal scorer, Nicole Beatson, with five seconds remaining, preserving the victory.
Liberty improves to 11-4 overall and moves into second place in the Big South at 4-1. Winthrop (11-4) sees its 10-game winning streak snapped and is now 4-1 in the conference.
The Lady Flames' senior class, which was honored prior to the game, contributed to the win. Senior defender Lindsey McNamara had a career-high and game-high six caused turnovers and shared game-high honors with four ground balls. Her sixth and final caused turnover came with 2:42 remaining and Liberty clinging to a 12-11 lead.
Redshirt senior attacker Michaela Rich had one goal, two assists, four ground balls and a caused turnover. The Lady Flames' senior attacker Abby Britton had a goal, a highlight-reel behind-the-back shot with 26:38 remaining in the second half, which brought Liberty within one (8-7) at the time.
Winthrop's Nicole Beaton, whose shot was stopped by Widrick in the closing seconds, paced the Eagles with a game-high five goals. On that particular play, the Eagles' Kristin Shriver committed a turnover with 30 seconds remaining. Widrick scooped up the ground ball, but Liberty turned it over with just over 12 seconds remaining. The Eagles' Allie Yaeger fed a pass ahead to a wide open Beatson. Beatson ripped a shot that was heading toward the top left corner of the cage, but Widrick snagged it out of the air and ran out the clock, sealing the victory.
Liberty's Jenna Joyal led the home attack with three goals, while Brianna McCaffrey and Toscano scored two times apiece. Toscano's game winner came on a free-position attempt. She eluded a Winthrop defender and fired a left-handed strike into the top right corner of the net for the 14th goal of the season.
Widrick (4-1) entered the game at the 16:17 mark of the first half and made six saves against seven goals allowed to pick up the fourth win of her junior campaign. Winthrop's Alaina Girani (11-4) recorded 20 saves in a losing effort. The 20 saves by Girani were the second most by any NCAA Division I player in a game, this season.
Liberty dominated several statistical categories in the game, including shots (45-21), ground balls (31-15), clears (20-of-21 vs. 17-of-25) and caused turnovers (15-6). The Lady Flames held a small edge in draws controls (13-12), aided by their 10-3 draw control advantage in the opening 30 minutes.
The Lady Flames trailed by as many as three in the contests on two occasions (4-1 and 6-3) and also were down two (8-6) in the early stages of the second half.
After over four minutes of scoreless action early on, McCaffrey put Liberty up, 1-0, at the 25:18 mark as she drove right and fired a low strike past Girani. Winthrop, which was very effective in free-position attempts (6-of-8) on Saturday afternoon, scored four unanswered goals. Allie Yeager had the first two, with one of them coming on an eight-meter shot. The Eagles' Katie Clark and Beatson made it 4-1 with 16:17 left in the opening half in favor of the vistors, following their free-position tallies.
The Lady Flames' Hannah Quast responded with a goal less than a minute later, trimming the deficit to 4-2. Winthrop scored two of the next three markers, coming from Shriver and Beatson, to regain a three-goal edge with 8:58 to go.
Liberty closed the half on a 3-0 run, including two goals in the final 1:13 (Foster and Joyal) to even up the match at 6-6 heading into halftime.
Coming out of intermission, Winthrop's Beatson scored her third and fourth goals of the day just 23 seconds apart. Her second one in that spurt, assisted by McKenna Blick, provided the Eagles an 8-6 lead. Following a Liberty timeout, the Lady Flames regained the lead on goals from Britton, freshman Emily Browne and Joyal.
The Eagles' Beatson (free-position shot) and Shriver regained the lead for the visitors, 10-9. Shriver's tally came with 19:31 on the clock.
The hosts once again exhibited their resilience, as Toscano scored a left-handed shot (14:48 remaining), and Joyal put Liberty ahead, 11-10, with 13:44 left on her man-up goal following a yellow card from the Eagles' Bianca Tedesco.
The Eagles' Clark tied it at 11-11 on a free-position goal, before Toscano's goal proved to be the difference-maker with 3:31 remaining.
Winthrop's Katherine judge led all players with eight draw controls, while McCaffrey paced Liberty with five. Widrick had a game-high five ground balls or the Lady Flames.
Liberty will play its final two regular-season contests on the road, this upcoming week. The Lady Flames will play at Radford (5-9, 2-3 BSC) on Wednesday at 4 p.m. in Radford, Va. They will then head to Buies Creek, N.C., to face Campbell (7-8, 3-2 BSC), next Saturday at 1 p.m.
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