Lady Flames soccer stages incredible comeback over West Virginia Mountaineers
The Lady Flames soccer team continued its hot streak Sunday, Sept. 3, taking down the reigning champion of the Big 12, the West Virginia Mountaineers, 3-1 in a much-anticipated non-conference matchup. The two teams met for the first time in program history in an afternoon match, with the Lady Flames entering at undefeated with five straight wins, with hopes of maintaining their unblemished record.
Liberty dominated the opening three minutes of the match with an early shot attempt from sophomore defender Haleigh Arostegui. However, West Virginia goalkeeper Kayza Massy made the save, keeping the score at 0-0.
The Mountaineers soon found their footing in the game, with Chloe Adler putting a ball in the back of the net at the 16th minute mark, jumping in front of the Flames, 1-0.
This marked the first time in the 2023 season that the Flames trailed in a match. Head Coach Lang Wedemeyer’s group, however, rallied back and looked for another opportunity in the 23rd minute with a shot by sophomore forward Allison Hansford. Once again, Massy came up big in the net for West Virginia.
As the half went on, the scorching heat began taking a toll on both teams. But as substitutions were made, the Flames managed to pick up the energy and continue generating opportunities for themselves. The Lady Flames were able to earn themselves two more corner kicks in the 29th minute of the match. However, the Flames’ energy would once again be tested.
In the 37th minute, senior midfielder Lily McCarthy gave West Virginia a scoring opportunity, but the shot went just wide over the crossbar. With this being junior goalkeeper Ainsley Leja’s sixth start of the season, she remained unfazed in the net despite the close call. West Virginia held the lone goal to close out the first half, despite Liberty outshooting its opponents 7-4 in the first half. The Flames also led in corner kicks with four opportunities, holding the Mountaineers to zero opportunities to end the first half.
The Lady Flames came out and dominated early on in the second half, hoping to tie the game with a huge scoring opportunity by Hansford in the 49th minute. However, Massy was at the near post to make the save. After much back-and-forth play, the Flames were awarded two corner kick opportunities, both of which they failed to capitalize on, leaving the score at 1-0.
Following a much-needed hydration break with just 21 minutes left, the Lady Flames continued battling in the afternoon heat. Finally, in the 72nd minute, a foul was called on West Virginia midfielder Maya McCutcheon, offering a penalty kick opportunity for the Flames. Senior midfielder Rachel DeRuby lined up to take the penalty kick, firing a shot to the left side of the net in the 72nd minute to tie the game 1-1. The momentum and energy quickly shifted in favor of the Lady Flames, and domination ensued.
In the 87th minute of the game, graduate midfielder Saydie Holland knocked a header in off a cross from sophomore forward Ivy Garner, giving the Flames the 2-1 advantage, their first lead of the afternoon. Less than a minute later, sophomore forward Allison Hansford sealed the deal, netting another one for the Flames on a breakaway to put Liberty up 3-1. West Virginia forward Dilary Heredia-Beltran tried to answer back in the 88th minute, but the shot soared wide.
The Flames managed to withhold West Virginia’s desperation in the final minutes of the match, notching their first triumph over a Big 12 opponent in program history with a final score of 3-1.
The Lady Flames extend their win streak to six games, stretching their unbeaten streak to 19 (16-0-3), the longest active NCAA Division 1 streak.
“This was an incredible performance by our players to get a result against such a quality opponent like West Virginia,” Wedemeyer said. “Their perseverance was amazing. We give God all the glory.”
The Flames will hit the road for their next two games, the first on Sept. 7 against Queens and then again on Sept. 10 against Marshall University. Both match times are set for 6 p.m.
Pais is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion.