Field Hockey Dominates Villanova In Weekend DoubleHEader
The referee’s whistle blew as the Lady Flames began their home opener, but the chilly February air signaled the unusual season ahead.
After dispatching Davidson College in North Carolina, the Lady Flames played their first home games in 465 days after the Big East conference decided to move the 2020 fall field hockey season to the spring due to COVID-19. The two-game home series against Villanova gave the Lady Flames a chance to rise to the top of the Big East conference standings as the season got underway – and the Lady Flames took full advantage of the opportunity.
Within two minutes, the Lady Flames were ahead 1-0 and they never looked back, winning 7-1 as they tore through Villanova’s defense Saturday. And they did it again the next day, finishing with the exact same scoreline.
In the first game, the Lady Flames pressing was instrumental to their success against the Wildcats. Liberty suffocated Villanova’s attacks, creating costly turnovers and limiting the Wildcats to only six shots.
The Lady Flames high line backed Villanova deep into its own territory, forcing Villanova to make quick runs or bypass the midfield. Villanova employed a similar strategy on defense, though its press was less successful.
After scoring early, however, the Lady Flames struggled to extend their lead until sophomore Daniella Rhodes struck a shot past Villanova goalkeeper Claire Borman. From that point on, the Lady Flames did not go more than 10 minutes without a goal, jumping out to a 7-0 lead. Villanova forward Mick Maggie was able to deny Liberty a shutout with her goal late in the fourth quarter.
Rhodes and senior Jill Bolton led the Lady Flames attack. Rhodes bagged a hat trick, the second of her collegiate career, with Bolton scoring two and assisting three as the Lady Flames surged past the Wildcats.
The Lady Flames are still working out who their No. 1 goalkeeper is, however. Santia McLaughlin and Azul Iritxity Irigoyen split time in net, with each goalie playing a half.
In the second game, junior Charlotte Vaanhold ran the show, scoring three as the Lady Flames repeated the previous day’s feat with a 7-1 victory. Coach Nikkie Parsley-Blocker gave her thoughts following
“I was excited to see us operating at such a high level this early in the season,” Parsley-Blocker said. “Moving forward, we’ll look to continue staying disciplined defensively and fine tuning our corners.”
With the victories, the Lady Flames sit at 3-0 and are looking to topple UCONN’s conference championship streak. The Huskies have won the last eight conference championships.
The Lady Flames will travel to Philadelphia to play Temple Feb. 27 and 28, before a home stand against Old Dominion March 6 and 7.
Luke Randle is the Asst. Sports Editor. Follow him on Twitter at @lukerandle02.