Double-Overtime winner sees Lady Flames Punch ticket to first National Championship game in program history

Stress produces many things, and it can put athletes in a fight or flight situation. In this case, Liberty fought and will now compete for NCAA Field Hockey National Championship.

The No. 9 Lady Flames won an extremely tense double overtime contest against No. 5 Maryland, thanks to a Charlotte Vaanhold winner. 

Back and forth action marked the first period of play, and Maryland exercises some dominance, putting the ball deep into Liberty territory. The Flames were able to keep the ball out of the cage however, forcing saves to keep the game scoreless. 

Both teams had sparks in the second period. The terrapin’s blazing pace crippled Liberty’s midfield and it forced defenders into risky situations, most of which the Flames handled well, but goalkeeper Azul Irixity-Irigoyen still had quite a few saves to make.  

#91 Azul Irixity-Irigoyen had nine saves over the course of the game. Photograph by Ross Kohl.

The Flames were able to have some offensive sparks as well; not having the terrapin’s pace, clever through passes got Martu Cian and other Flames attackers in good spots.

On a penalty corner though, Liberty had its best chance to score. Midfielder Lizzie Hamlet was unable to get the shot into an open goal and the game remained 0-0. 

Another chance emerged for the Flames late in the quarter on another corner, but defender Bethany Dykema was not able to redirect the ball into the cage. 

Scoreless at the half, the Flames came out on fire in the third quarter. 

Just over three minutes into the third, defender Maddie Hosler found forward Jill Bolton lurking behind the defense, and her pass connected cleanly with Bolton who drifted a shot past Maryland goalie Noelle Frost for the lead. 

And with under a minute to play in the 3rd quarter, Liberty doubled its lead. Rhodes cut through on the left flank, and when her shot popped into the air off Frost’s pads, fellow forward Charlotte Vaanhold took her stick and smashed the ball into the cage, in baseball-esque fashion.

Maryland instantly responded however, with Bibi Donraadt finishing a goal in a similar manner to Vaanhold’s goal that was scored 0:40 prior. 

Going into the fourth quarter, Liberty had the lead, but Maryland had the momentum.

The terrapins pushed, fighting for an equalizer. They found their spark, when Maddie Hosler’s obstruction resulted in a penalty stroke. Facing only the goalie for a 1 on 1 shot, UMD’s Hope Rose tied the game, crushing the Flame’s hopes of escaping with a 2-1 win. 

2-2 with five minutes to play, both teams fought on for a winner, Maryland showing more assertiveness and confidence. Maryland and Liberty had plenty of penalty corners, 10 each, but none found the back of the cage. 

The Lady Flames found themselves in overtime, just like they had against Rutgers in the previous round. Emotions were high, both teams playing defensively to begin.

However, the Lady Flames made a poor start to overtime, with Ashley Dykema-Pereira’s yellow card giving the terps a 7-6 advantage (overtime in field hockey is 7 vs. 7). 

The terrapins ripped shots at Irixity-Irigoyen, 31 over the whole game, but Liberty’s savior of the net stood tall. 

A green card went against Maryland late in OT, but the Flames made nothing of it. Late in double overtime, it looked like the game was going to a shootout, with each team playing defensively. 

Then with under two minutes to play in double OT, Bethany Dykema ripped a pass to midfielder Reagan Underwood on the right wing, who flicked it to Bolton in the center of the field. Bolton picked out her pass to Charlotte Vaanhold, who chipped Frost for the game-sealing goal. 3-2, double overtime, game over. 

Emotions exploded for the Lady Flames, with Vaanhold ferociously throwing down her stick and her team sprinting toward her to celebrate the walk-off victory.

Following the game, coach Parsley-Blocker was still in a bit of shock, processing the result. Similarly, the team had to refocus, after letting a 2-0 lead slip. 

“We started with taking two deep breaths, because you have to be in control of yourself before you can be in control of your performance,” Parsley-Blocker said when asked about what she told her team before overtime. 

She also admitted that they’ve copied a phrase from UNC field hockey, saying that “the most important game is the next one.” 

Bolton’s goal and Vaanhold’s double see Liberty into its first national championship, Liberty’s first NCAA national championship game for any sport. 

Vaanhold, who has scored six goals in her last five game, said that she didn’t really worry about her scoring tally. 

“I don’t really care too much about scoring goals,” Vaanhold said. “Of course, it’s nice; it’s a team effort.” 

Vaanhold #9 (left) and Bolton #25 (right) celebrated immediately after the victory. (Photograph by Ross Kohl)

The Lady Flames will take on Northwestern in the National Championship. The Flameslost to Northwestern 4-3, in the Flames home opener. Northwestern is Parsley-Blocker’s alma mater.

Everything is on the line, Sunday, Nov. 21.

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

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