Liberty Loses In The First Round Of The 2020 NCAA College Cup

Liberty women’s soccer’s season came to an abrupt end April 27 with a 3-0 loss to the Washington Huskies in the first round of the NCAA 2020 DI Women’s College Cup. 

The Lady Flames qualified for the tournament with its ASUN Championship victory. Liberty was not expected to win any of its ASUN tournament games, but three straight upsets gave the Lady Flames the title when they beat Kennesaw State in overtime. 

The Lady Flames’ strong defense carried them to the conference title with senior defender Cora Duininck and senior goalkeeper Melody Jayroe leading a powerful defensive unit. 

Unfortunately for the Lady Flames, their defense was not up for guarding PAC-12 opposition.  

Huskies senior Ameera Hussen collected a rebound and fired it into the net past Jayroe one minute and seven seconds into the game. The Lady Flames refocused after the early goal, limiting the amount of chances Washington had for most of the first half.

Washington held 54% possession in the game. The additional amount of time on the ball, combined with the Lady Flames sitting back, aided the Huskies’ offensive endeavors. 

Late in the first half, Washington forward Mary Johnston floated a pretty ball behind the Lady Flames defense. Liberty’s Jayroe and Washington’s Karlee Stueckle raced toward the ball, and Stueckle lobbed a brilliant high chip over Jayroe to put the Huskies up 2-0. 

Early in the second half, a Huskies’ free kick resulted in Washington’s final goal. Senior midfielder Olivia Van Der Jagt soared into the air, heading a ball into the bottom right corner past a helpless Jayroe. 

Following the goal, the Lady Flames started to find a hold on the game by sharpening their passing and resisting Washington’s press. In the end, however, it was too late for the Lady Flames. As the full-time whistle sounded in Matthew, North Carolina, the scoreboard read 3-0 in favor of Washington. 

The Flames’ offensive highlight of the game came in the 61st minute when junior forward Kasey Jamieson rattled the crossbar with a long-range effort. 

Other than Jamieson’s shot, not much happened for the Lady Flames in the offensive department. Washington pressed Liberty relentlessly, especially in midfield. The Huskies established dominance from the beginning, denying Liberty the opportunities to create chances. 

Coach Lang Wedemeyer spoke regarding Washington’s control over the game.

“We were having a difficult time with their physicality and their athleticism,” Wedemeyer said. “They were winning a lot of balls in the air, and we were having a hard time solving that problem for periods of time in the first half.”

The trip to nationals was the first for the Flames under Wedemeyer. Wedemeyer praised the Lady Flames’ fight throughout the game. 

“I think that the girls actually believed that they could come out and win tonight,” Wedemeyer said. “They never quit. And that’s the one thing that I will give my team, even being 3-0 down with two minutes to go they were fighting. They were battling, they were trying to get a goal. I’m very proud of that effort that they showed today.”

With the loss, Duininck’s and Jayroe’s careers at Liberty come to a close. Across four seasons, the pair managed 68 starts each. Disappointed with the loss, Duininck was still able to draw out some positives from the game.

“Definitely a dream,” Duininck said. “Even though this year looks a little bit different than other years, it was such an honor to be one of those 48 teams here. There was just a collective excitement honestly and just an attitude of thankfulness that we even get to be a part of this. I think at the end of the day, being able to step away from this knowing that I got to be surrounded by such amazing people and make the run that we did, even with odds against us. It’s pretty cool to be able to go out with that in the forefront of my mind.”

While the Lady Flames will feel the effects of losing Duinick and Jayroe, the team will remain mostly intact next season with its core being composed of underclassmen. 

With ASUN Freshman of the Year Meredith King, freshman defender Sophia Palladino, freshman forward Chloe Marr and many others returning, the Lady Flames have a lot to look forward to next season. 

ASUN Coach of the Year Lang Wedemeyer will lead the Lady Flames back onto the field this fall. 

Luke Randle is the Sports Editor. Follow him on Twitter at @lukerandle02.

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