Seniors lead the way

Lady Flames look to build on unprecedented success from 2014 season

The Liberty field hockey team is off to a strong 3-0 start this season, with victories over James Madison University (6-3), Penn (4-3) and Lafayette (2-1). Competing as an independent, apart from a conference this season, the Field Hockey team looks to return to the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row.

Strong — Junior midfielder Bethany Barr loads up to send a pass across the field toward the goal. Photo credit: Leah Seavers

Strong — Junior midfielder Bethany Barr loads up to send a pass across the field toward the goal. Photo credit: Leah Seavers

The major success of such a relatively young program can be attributed to its mutual respect and compassion for one another, senior leadership, and a thirst for a championship.

The team of 24 became well acquainted with one another when they spent two weeks in Virginia Beach for the preseason while their field was being refurbished. They trained twice a day and the time away from campus allowed for plenty of team bonding.

Senior captains Erin Dombach, Natalie Barr and Sarah Gipe believe in cultivating an atmosphere of mutual respect between everyone on the team.

“We want to be intentional and have the same friendships with freshman as we do with people in our own class and vice versa,” Barr said. “I think it’s about trying to get everyone on the team to understand that we’re all equal and just kind of encouraging and loving each other through it all.”

With 10 seniors returning for their final year, the team is more experienced than ever for the NCAA tournament. This particular class knows what it means to win, personally experiencing two Northern Pacific (NorPac) conference championships and two NCAA tournament appearances in only four years.

“Since they came in four years ago, they have really been the driving force of this program being in the Top 20,” Murphy said. “So I think even though we have three said captains in that group of 10, every single girl in that class is a leader and every single girl has entirely bought into our vision and mission.”

However, this year will be slightly different than previous years because Liberty is no longer competing in the NorPac. The field hockey team will be competing independent of a conference this year, ultimately allowing them to build their own schedule, and include teams of a high caliber.

“I think that every time we come against (top 20) teams we see it as an opportunity to raise our level of game and learn from those programs,” Barr said. “Every time we come against a high ranked team we have a lot of respect for them but ultimately believe as well that we can compete with them and beat them and that’s why we have them on our schedule.”

Liberty has already displayed this confidence with their 3-0 record to start the season. Since they will not be able to enter the NCAA tournament through conference play, they need to perform at a high level all season long.

“We really believe each and every game matters,” Murphy said. “We are looking at every single game as an opportunity to get into the NCAA tournament.”

The Liberty field hockey team will take on Richmond in their next home game Tuesday, Sept. 8.

Britton is a sports reporter.

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