Women’s D1 Hockey Wins Thrid Straight ACHA Title

The Liberty women’s DI hockey team won its third straight American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) national championship April 19, beating the Lindenwood Lions 3-1. 

The Lady Flames had to go through a tough stretch of competition to just get the chance to play in the national championship. After traveling to North Dakota for the weekend tournament, the team swept its pool play division, including getting a win over Lindenwood in the opening match. 

The Lady Flames sealed the deal in the playoffs, defeating Midland University in the semi-finals before facing Lindenwood again in the championship. The Lady Flames DI hockey program has now won four national titles, and they join the Lions as the only two programs in the ACHA to win three titles in a row. 

“We had a plan in place to navigate,” Head Coach Chris Lowes said about the tournament victories. “Not just to win one game, but what it would take to win five, to have enough energy and be healthy enough to get that last game.”

“I think everyone was going into the tournament with the same goal,” sophomore defenseman Julia McDonald said. “We all really wanted to win nationals, especially because of the COVID shutdown last year and how we weren’t able to compete.”

The Lady Flames led Lindenwood for practically the whole game, outshooting the Lions 32-19 in the often one-sided affair. Freshman goalie Kylie Mebs had 18 saves, including a fantastic stop in the first period to prevent the Lions from taking a 1-0 lead. Graduate forward Valeriia Manchak nabbed two goals during the contest, and senior forward Alex Smibert added one more to solidify Liberty’s lead. 

Lowes credited his players’ strong showing during the championship to both their experience and their emphasis on controlled play.

“I think generally our team stayed pretty balanced emotionally … the girls were super exited but had very controlled emotions. That’s kind of a sign of a veteran group and a group that’s had success before,” Lowes said.

Manchak was named the Player of the Game for the championship after leading the Lady Flames to victory with her two goals. Sophomore forward Yannick Truter earned Tournament MVP honors because of her offensive play.

Graduate forward Vanessa DeMerchant emphasized how the team secured the win by supporting one another.

“I think we had to battle through a lot of adversity,” DeMerchant said. “We just made sure that we did whatever we could to lift each other up. If someone was feeling low, someone else stepped up and kind of took over for them. It was definitely a group effort.” 

After dropping their season opener to Lindenwood 2-0, the Lady Flames won their next 15 games in a row. They finished as both the Women’s Midwest College Hockey (WMCH) conference champions and the ACHA national champions.

“On ice, we checked off all our boxes,” Lowes said. “We finished as the No. 1 seed. We were able to win our conference tournament, and then we finished it off with the big prize of a national title. On ice, we were very successful.”

The Lady Flames will look to continue their success next season and defend their national championship. For now, though, the team and staff are looking to celebrate the win and the end of a great season. 

“I think it’s really special that we won conference and won nationals,” McDonald said. “Not a lot of people get that opportunity. It was a really special year … it just gets us all really excited for what’s to come.”

Sarah Tate is a Sports Reporter. Follow her on Instagram at @state2151.

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