Field hockey fly past ODU Monarchs, earning bid to NCAA tournament
The Big East crown belongs to the Lady Flames once again, as they overtook the Old Dominion Monarchs in the BIG EAST Championship game, 3-1.
The No. 2 seed Liberty Flames started off their winning weekend defeating No. 3 seed Connecticut 2-1 in the BIG EAST Field Hockey Championship semifinals Nov. 4 at Old Dominion’s L.R. Hill Sports Complex.
The Lady Flames advanced to the BIG EAST Championship after their semifinal victory to move on to Sunday’s championship game, where they sought to defend their title.
Liberty faced off with the Old Dominion Monarchs in the championship game, a team they had suffered defeat against just two weeks prior, losing 1-0 in the regular season finale. Liberty’s offense simply could not get going in their previous matchup, making it a point of emphasis for Head Coach Nikki-Parsley-Blocker and her girls to turn the tides in the title game.
Not even two minutes into the start of the game, forward Daniella Rhodes shot an unassisted goal, allowing the Flames to jump ahead for the early lead. The score bumped Rhodes’ team-leading goals up to 11 for the year and 56th of her career, putting her in second place of all time in program history.
From then on, neither team would find the net until the fourth quarter when the Monarchs came alive, as a shot by forward Sanci Molkenboer found the net and evened out the scoreboard.
With 6:41 to go in the game, the Flames responded as fullback Bethany Dymeka came in clutch with a game-winning goal, assisted by fullback Jodie Conolly.
As Old Dominion scrambled to make a last-minute comeback, the Flames would squash their title hopes with a mere 19 seconds remaining in regulation as forward Martu Cian scored the game’s final goal, giving them the 3-1 lead.
After a hard-fought battle, the Lady Flames took down top-seed Old Dominion on their own turf. Liberty’s record improves to 12-7, and they receive the bid to the 2022 NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championship starting Nov. 11. This will be Liberty’s fourth time being invited to the tournament.
The BIG EAST Tournament Most Outstanding Player award was given to goalkeeper Azul Iritxity Irigoyen, who had four saves on Sunday and nine saves on Friday. She only allowed two goals during the tournament.
Three other players were awarded the BIG EAST All-Tournament team: Martu Cian, Jodie Conolly and Bethany Dykema, who scored the game-winning goal late in the fourth quarter.
This win was Liberty’s third top-25 win of the season and 13th over the past two years.
After experiencing Big East glory, the Flames won’t have too much time to relish in the triumph. No. 19 Liberty will play away against No. 3 Maryland on Friday, Nov. 11 at 12 p.m. EST for the first round of the 2022 NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championship. This game will be a rematch between the two teams from the 2021 NCAA Final Four, where Liberty had a narrow 3-2 win, sending the Lady Flames to the first national championship game in Liberty Athletics history.
Bruss is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion. Follow her on Twitter