Liberty Field Hockey falls one game short of the tournament in the Big East title game
- A promising season for Lady Flames field hockey included two players earning spots on the first-team All Big East and wins against top-ranking teams.
- The team looks forward to working towards possibly winning the Big East title game and advancing to the NCAA tournament next year.
Liberty Field Hockey (8-11) hoped to avenge their Big East title game loss from last year, but they fell short once again to Connecticut University (23-0) in a rematch of last year’s title game. Connecticut eventually went on to win the National Championship after a perfect season.
Liberty had hopes of taking it to the next level this season under first-year coach Nikki Parsley.
“I was excited about the season, you know, having the fifth-hardest strength of schedule in the country and being able to have as many close matches as we did,” Parsley said. “You know, we had several with Delaware, (and) going to overtime with Duke.”
Although the Flames were able to keep up with some of the top-ranked teams in the nation, Parsley was not satisfied with simply being competitive. She felt that it was a good start for her first year taking over the team, but it is not where they want to be.
“I think it was a real positive for the program (to reach) the Big East Championship game for the second year in a row,” Parsley said.
She said the team is doing the right things, but they need to be able to take down bigger opponents. The team was able to finish the season 8-2 against unranked teams but went 0-9 against ranked opponents.
“I think before you can win those games, you have to be in those games, so it’s a really big positive for us that we took the number two ranked team in the country to overtime,” Parsley said, referring back to their loss to Duke.
Freshman midfielder Jill Bolton said that while it was frustrating to lose in the championship, it is also a testament of the Lady Flames potential.
“We gave it our all and next year we’re hoping to come out with a win in the championship and work hard this whole offseason and preseason to get there,” Bolton said. “We’re definitely going to come back stronger for sure.”
While they did fall one game short, the team looked back at positives from the season, as well as things that could be improved upon for next year.
“I think that against big teams we were able to play at the same level,” sophomore forward Agueda Moroni said.
Bolton felt that a strength of the team this year was that the offense was executing, especially toward the end of the season. She felt like their scoring and passing started to progress as the season went on, and that they kept improving. Bolton also was not surprised that their defense was strong for them all season.
“We’re a scary team to play because we’re gonna fight so fiercely for everything,” Parsley said.
The Lady Flames also earned multiple individual achievements, as both Bolton and Moroni made first-team All-Big East this year. Moroni also made first-team all-region after tying the school record for goals in a season. Bolton was also one of a select-few freshmen to make an all-region squad, making it on the second team.
“It was really exciting for us,” Parsley said. “I think anytime the girls can get recognized by opposing coaches, it just really is a testament to the work that they’re putting in day-in and day-out.”
Moroni was excited to win the honor, but she said the ultimate goal is to win the Big East Championship and advance to the NCAA tournament.
Moroni and Bolton also highlighted the strong freshman class they had this year, and the incoming classes that they have. They feel like the team has a bright future and that they are going to keep building the program.
The program is also only losing two seniors who saw significant playing time, so Parsley said she feels the team will be able to be even better next year.
Moroni also highlighted “patience on trusting the process” with it being coach Parsley’s first year and with what she is already beginning to build.
“I think that every day counts,” Moroni said, regarding the offseason.
Every repetition and everything they do must be set toward their goals for next year. While they had a decent season this year, it is not good enough for them.
Parsley has set some high expectations for next year, including winning the Big East. She also wants the team to be able to make the NCAA tournament, whether through a championship win or by earning an at-large bid.