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No. 2 Liberty Falls to No. 3 Winthrop in Big South Championship Semifinals

May 4, 2018  High Point, N.C.  RSS
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Despite Friday night's loss, the Lady Flames finished the year with a 13-5 mark, the best record in school history.

Despite Friday night's loss, the Lady Flames finished the year with a 13-5 mark, the best record in school history.

No. 2 seed Liberty fell to No. 3 seed Winthrop, 16-10, in the semifinals of the 2018 Big South Women's Lacrosse Championship on Friday evening at Vert Stadium.

The Eagles (14-5) will move on to face No. 1 seed High Point (16-2) in Sunday's championship game. The Panthers topped No. 4 seed Campbell, 12-5, in Friday afternoon's first semifinal match.

Meanwhile, Liberty sees its season come to an end. The Lady Flames put together a historic 2018 campaign, finishing 13-5 for the best record and most wins in program history.

Winthrop was led by the nation's leading goal scorer, senior Nicole Beatson, who scored seven times in the contest. The Eagles' Katherine Judge set a tournament record with 13 draw controls, as Winthrop dominated the Lady Flames in the draw circle, 18-9. Liberty received three goals from redshirt senior attacker Michaela Rich in her final game as a Lady Flame and three goals from sophomore midfielder Carly White. Rich wraps up her Liberty career with 106 goals, tied for fourth most in program history, 35 assists and 141 points (No. 6 in school history).

The Eagles never trailed after the 10:49 mark in the first half following Beatson's second goal of the game put them up, 6-5. Beatson scored two more times in the opening half, which helped Winthrop to an 11-7 lead at halftime. Beatson then went on a personal 3-0 run to open the second half, making it 14-7 Eagles. Her seventh goal of the contest and 89th of the season on a free-position attempt at the 17:49 mark made it a seven-goal cushion.

The Eagles eventually took their biggest lead of the game at 16-8 with 7:09 left following a goal from Katherine Clark. The Lady Flames closed the game with the final two goals. Rich (2:42 mark) and Kayla Foster (16 seconds left) capped off the scoring for Liberty to settle the final score at 16-10.

Liberty outshot Winthrop, 38-32, in the match and held advantages in ground balls (19-10), caused turnovers (14-7) and clears (20-of-21 for Liberty vs. 15-of-19 for Winthrop) while committing far less turnovers (nine) than the Eagles (22). The Lady Flames, who are the national leaders in caused turnovers per game, received three apiece from senior Lindsey McNamara and freshman Mia Toscano. McNamara recorded a career-best 30 caused turnovers as a senior and finished her four-year career with 83 caused turnovers (No. 2 in program history) and 109 ground balls (No. 8 in program history).

However, Winthrop goalkeeper Alaini Girani (14-5) consistently turned aside Lady Flames shot attempts all night, making a Big South Championship-record 17 saves in the game against 10 goals. Liberty netminder Katherine Widrick (6-2) made seven saves and allowed 16 goals in just her second loss of the season.

The Lady Flames' White scored the first goal of the game just 55 seconds in, which staked Liberty to a 1-0 edge. Liberty held three one-goal leads in the early stages of the contest (1-0, 3-2 and 5-4) but could never distance itself from Winthrop.

The Lady Flames' Rich made it 5-4, Lady Flames, with a left-handed strike into the left side of the cage at the 17:05 mark of the first half, which was Liberty's final lead of the contest. Liberty senior Abby Britton also scored earlier in the half (evening the score at 2-2), her 14th goal of the season and 39th of her four-year career.

The Eagles closed on a 7-2 run to lead 11-7 at intermission and held a 12-6 edge in draws in the first 30 minutes. Winthrop also took advantage of its free-position chances, converting 5-of-9 chances overall, led by Beatson's 3-of-4 effort. Liberty managed to convert only 2-of-6 chances, both of which came from White (2-of-3).

Liberty ended its 2018 campaign averaging 13.44 goals per game, 19.67 points per game, 14.28 caused turnovers per game, a .478 save percentage and a 9.78 goals-against average, all school records.