Liberty (8-4) earned a share of the Big South Conference title after a 56-14 season-ending triumph at Charleston Southern, extending its dominance over the 10-3 Buccaneers to 19-2 all-time. The Flames have now won six conference crowns in the past seven seasons.
But for the second year in a row, the Flames lost a tiebreaker to Coastal Carolina for the league’s lone automatic Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoff bid.
The Flames led the Big South with 16 players earning all-conference honors. Liberty’s first-team all-conference honorees included: Darrin Peterson (So., WR), Brandon Apon (Sr., TE), Hunter Steward (Sr., OL), Chima Uzowihe (So., DL), Nick Sigmon (Jr., LB), Jacob Hagen (Jr., DB), Walt Aikens (Sr., DB), Kevin Fogg (R-Sr., DB), and Richard Wright (Sr., LS). Liberty’s second-team all-conference award winners were: Josh Woodrum (R-So., QB), Desmond Rice (Jr., RB), Jonathan Burgess (So., OL), Mitch Hanson (Jr., OL), Greg Ray (Jr., OL), Cory Freeman (Sr., DL), and Scott Hyland (Sr., LB).
After starting their season at 1-14, including 11 losses by sweep, the Lady Flames rebounded to win nine of their final 12 regular-season matches, all against Big South Conference opponents. Liberty (11-18) entered the Big South Championship in Clinton, S.C., as the No. 4 seed and beat No. 5 UNC Asheville in the first round, 25-19, 17-25, 25-22, 25-21.
The Lady Flames then had top-seeded Radford (25-9) on the ropes in the semifinals. They set up match point four times in the fifth and final set before allowing the Highlanders to escape with a 25-21, 20-25, 17-25, 25-20, 21-19 triumph en route to their first conference tournament title since 2000.
The Lady Flames (17-5) experienced a monumental third season, claiming their first NorPac Championship title in just their second season in the league to secure a berth in the NCAA Division I Tournament.
Liberty’s 2-1 upset of 10th-ranked Stanford in the Nov. 9 NorPac championship game in Lynchburg — the Lady Flames’ 12th triumph in a row — was especially sweet as it came against the same Cardinal squad that ended Liberty’s 2012 season with a 3-0 loss in the final.
As the tournament host and No. 1 seed out of the East Division, Liberty defeated California, the fourth seed from the West, 3-1 in the Nov. 7 quarterfinal round, and second-seeded UC Davis 6-0 in the Nov. 8 semifinals. In the final against Stanford, sophomore forward Natalie Barr’s go-ahead goal with 3:49 remaining in regulation stood as the game-winner. Senior goalkeeper Ann Jefferis was named tournament MVP.
The Lady Flames then drew No. 14 Delaware in an NCAA Tournament Play-In game and fell to the Blue Hens, 1-0, in Newark, Del., despite outshooting their hosts, 11-8.
Barr, the two-time NorPac East Offensive Player of the Year, and Jefferis were later named to the National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-South Region first and second teams, respectively.
After upsetting second-seeded High Point 1-0 on Nov. 12 and third-seeded Longwood 2-0 on Nov. 15, the Flames, seeded No. 7, nearly became the Cinderella story of the Big South Tournament, but ultimately fell short to top-seeded Coastal Carolina, 2-0, in the Nov. 17 championship game in Greensboro, N.C.
Liberty was the first No. 7 seed to reach the conference tournament final since 1992.
The surprisingly deep run capped an 11-9 regular season and 5-5 mark in conference play.
Goalkeeper Scott Sutarik, who posted two of his five season shutouts in the tournament, was named to the All-Tournament Team.
Sophomore forward Sachem Wilson, who netted the game’s only goal in the Liberty’s quarterfinal win over High Point, was the Flames’ leading scorer of the season with 10 goals, including three game-winners, and three assists.
The Lady Flames exceeded preseason expectations that pegged them as the seventh-best team in the Big South Championship, finishing 16-6-1 to surpass the 2000 team for the most single-season wins in program history. Liberty made its first NCAA appearance since 2005 (fourth overall) after blowing out top-seeded, two-time defending champion Radford, 5-0, setting a record for the most goals scored in a Big South Championship final.
The Lady Flames then faced No. 1 seed North Carolina — winner of 21 of 31 national championships — in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on UNC’s Fetzer Field. Liberty fought valiantly against the defending champion Tar Heels before suffering a 4-0 season-ending setback.
Sophomore midfielder Brittany Aanderud set a single-season school record with 10 assists. She led the team in points with 22. Goalkeeper Holly Van Noord had a phenomenal redshirt freshman season, posting 14 shutouts, making 96 saves, and allowing only 0.72 goals per game.
At the Nov. 2 Big South Championships in Buena Vista, Va., Liberty won its ninth consecutive Big South championship and 15th overall, holding off runner-up High Point 40-48. The Flames were paced by sophomore Jeremie Bourget’s third-place time of 26:02.35 on the 8K course, breaking the previous course record.
Liberty redshirt junior Josh MacDonald crossed the finish line 15th overall in the men’s 10K at the NCAA Division I Southeast Regional Championships held Nov. 15 at Panorama Farms near Charlottesville, Va., completing the rolling course in 29 minutes, 33.6 seconds. He earned all-region honors with the fastest finish by a Big South runner and helped the Flames take 10th as a team, their eighth top-10 showing in the past nine years.
For the ninth straight season, Liberty’s Brant Tolsma was selected as Big South Men’s Coach of the Year. It was the 55th time overall — between men’s and women’s cross country and indoor and outdoor track & field — that he has received the honor.
On the women’s side at the Southeast Regional meet, the Lady Flames came in 23rd overall, paced by junior Jacy Christiansen’s 57th-place finish out of 265 runners on the 6K course in a personal-best time of 21:52.5. She was the second-fastest BSC runner of the day, placing ahead of Big South meet champion Letitia Saayman of Coastal Carolina.
Christiansen also led Liberty to a second-place showing at the Big South Championships with her third-place finish in 18:00.22 for the 5K. It was the 10th straight season Liberty landed in the top two as a team, with five crowns in that span.
Competing in its third and final event of the fall semester, Liberty University’s first-year equestrian program brought home its first individual championship on Nov. 16. Lady Flames junior Emma Grace Moore finished first out of seven competitors in the Novice Over Fences class of the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Region 2 show hosted by nearby Sweet Briar College.
Freshman Jordyn Tawney also took third in her Beginner Walk-Trot Canter class at the Sweet Briar show.
Liberty is in its first season competing in Region 2 of Zone 4, one of the most challenging regions in the nation.
A day after the Lady Flames debuted at No. 10 in first ACHA ranking of the season, Liberty defeated No. 2 Rhode Island 4-0 on the road. The Lady Flames capped the difficult two-game series with a 2-2 tie the next night.
Liberty’s American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) Division I men’s hockey team rose to a program-high No. 3 in the ACHA national rankings in December.
Liberty opened the year on a seven-game winning streak, capped by a two-game sweep at Ohio University, the team that ended its season in the second round of last year’s ACHA DI National Championships. The Flames then rebounded from their first loss of the season (Oct. 11 vs. Arizona) by winning 10 straight games between Oct. 12 and Nov. 15.
On Sept. 21, Liberty hosted its first-ever all-collegiate and junior sprint triathlon on campus. A total of 93 triathletes from eight schools competed, including 22 from Liberty, 14 from Appalachian State, 13 from men’s, women’s, and overall team champion Navy, and 13 from James Madison University.
Liberty junior Joseph Anderson won the race and showed tremendous sportsmanship en route to victory. When Anderson witnessed a Naval Academy cyclist take a wrong turn soon after transitioning out of the pool, he didn’t hesitate to flag the Midshipman down and steer him back on course.
Anderson helped Liberty to a second-place team finish. For the women, Kathryn Mullaly, finishing 11th overall, led the Lady Flames to a third-place showing behind Navy and JMU.
The Flames have been ranked No. 1 in the National Collegiate Paintball Association (NCPA) Class AA since winning their Sept. 28 Liberty Open tournament.
At an NCPA event hosted by the University of Kentucky in Louisville on Nov. 9, Liberty sent five squads, all of which placed in the top half of the 19-team field.
Liberty’s Gold squad, made up of its top guns, finished runner-up to defending NCPA Nationals Tournament champion Florida Gulf Coast University, losing a RaceTo-2 tie-breaker in the best-of-three final.
Liberty’s fifth team, the Black squad, made up of mostly newer players, was the talk of the tournament. The Flames came out of the preliminary round ranked second and wound up fifth overall.