Women’s field hockey remains undefeated in victory over American University
It was a blazing afternoon on the Mountain as the American University Eagles came to face the No. 14 Liberty Flames in a Sunday matinee.
Entering Sunday’s contest, the Flames had done nothing but win. The team entered 3-0, with two home victories against Kent State and Indiana and a very notable win at No. 6 Virginia.
For standout Liberty senior midfielder, however, this game held a bit more significance that the others. Underwood got the chance to play against her sister, Bryn Underwood, the goalkeeper for the American Eagles. This is the first, and likely final time that the two sisters will face each other in their collegiate careers. Both were captains on Sunday for the pregame coin toss, and they got a chance afterwards to exchange final words before a game they will never forget.
The first period of play was a rather quiet one. Both Liberty and American got merely one shot off in the first 15 minutes, with American getting one penalty corner to Liberty’s zero. The second set of 15 was no different on the scoreboard, as the Flames managed to fire two shots on goal, both of which missed the mark.
As halftime hit in the Hill City, temperatures were only getting hotter on the turf.
“You get 30 seconds to complain about the heat, then we are moving on,” Liberty Head Coach Nikki Parsley-Blocker told her team at halftime. “American has to play in the same exact heat as we do … It’s not good if we are still thinking about the heat after halftime.”
During the third quarter of action, Liberty would fire three more shots, with two of them missing the net and one being saved by Bryn Underwood. The Eagles put their efforts in, as well. Two shots were sent soaring by the American offense in the third period, but strong defense from Flames’ senior goalkeeper Azul Iritxity Irigoyen would see to it that neither attempt turned into points as the fourth quarter of play began.
Both teams were more aggressive in the final 15 minutes of regulation. Liberty had seven shots in the fourth quarter alone. American was able to get three of their own shots off, but with nobody being able score in 60 minutes, the game was sent into overtime.
Both teams were fighting to put the first point on the board, as the next goal scored would end the match. However, scoring is hard to do without shooting. Only one shot was recorded in overtime, as 70 scoreless minutes took the teams into double overtime.
Six minutes into second overtime, the Flames had a breakaway scoring opportunity. Graduate forward Milagros Arteta was all alone, with nothing but Bryn Underwood separating the ball and the net. Arteta put the ball in the back of the net for the game-winning goal — which would be overturned minutes later after video review showed a back stick penalty on Arteta.
The game continued on at a 0-0 stalemate. With no score at the end of 80 minutes of gameplay, the Flames and the Eagles were destined for a shootout.
American got the first crack at the shootout, but Azul was like a brick wall, denying the Eagles’ first attempt. Liberty freshman Kyleigh Faust was the first Flame to shoot, sneaking her shot in past Underwood to put the Flames up 1-0 in the shootout.
The shootout score would quickly be tied by American junior Federica Turina Dellamaggiore. This, however, would be the last time the Eagles put a ball in the net. In the third round of the shootout, Arteta, whose goal in second overtime was waived off, took the most of her opportunity with a vengeance.
As she approached Eagles goalkeeper Underwood, Arteta tripped and fell over Underwood’s legs. However, her athleticism showed up as, from the ground, she stretched out and managed to roll the ball into the back of the net, giving the Flames a 2-1 lead in the shootout.
Now, it was down to Irigoyen. The Flames goaltender had been an immoveable object for the entire game, and this would not change in the final rounds of the shootout. Saves in the third and fourth rounds sealed the deal as the Liberty Flames picked up the long, hard-fought 1-0 victory over American.
“It feels really exciting,” Irigoyen said. “Overtime is something that is really difficult for me because it’s just one score and that’s it … I’m just really happy. I leaned a lot on my teammates and winning in a shootout is nice because it meant a lot to me and I’m really happy about it.”
The 4-0 Liberty Flames will be back in action with another trying test this Friday, welcoming No. 11 Harvard to Lynchburg at 4 p.m.
Weissinger is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion. Follow him on X