Flames stunned on Senior Day: Women’s lax honors seniors in hard-fought game

With the ASUN tournament in mind, Liberty University’s women’s lacrosse team battled hard against Jacksonville University for the final regular season game of the year April 27. Although the Flames fell to the Dolphins 12-11 in overtime, the energy was still exciting as the Lady Flames honored their seniors and put on a great showing. 

Both teams brought the intensity to East Campus as they looked to end their regular seasons with a win. A beautiful Saturday afternoon and packed-out crowd made for a great Senior Day as the Lady Flames recognized their six graduating seniors just before the game began. Mia Blackburn, Jordan Sheive, Katelyn Weissend, Mackenzie Lehman, Kelly Scott and Olivia Glaze were all celebrated by their family, friends and fans for their hard work and achievements.

“It’s an intangible (feeling) that the underclassmen were fired up to honor and play for their seniors,” Head Coach Kelly Nangle said. “Especially when you get a senior class that has poured everything into this program.”

The ASUN Conference tournament is right around the corner, and every game matters a little bit more at this point in the season. The Flames were locked in a tight race in the standings between conference opponents Lindenwood and Queens heading into their final matchup. Meanwhile their opponent, Jacksonville, is sitting at the top of the ASUN Conference with an undefeated conference record. 

The game began with a draw control by the Dolphins that led to an early Jacksonville goal just 15 seconds into the game. However, the crowd’s infectious electricity helped the Lady Flames respond quickly with a goal of their own scored by junior attacker Cami Merkel. Merkel played an aggressive game on Saturday and ended the day with five goals of her own. 

Photo by Noah Seidlitz (@noahsdslr)

With the score now 1-1, the game’s intensity grew exponentially. The back-and-forth style of play resulted in another Merkel goal just minutes after her first one. The Flames took the lead 2-1 over the Dolphins about halfway through the first quarter. 

Unfortunately, the game began to get extremely physical, and Liberty’s junior attacker Celena Kerr received a yellow card. This gave the Dolphins an advantage that led to two quick goals. 

This high-intensity level of gameplay carried throughout the remainder of the first quarter, and the Flames finished the quarter ahead 6-4. The Flames relied on Merkel to continue to find the back of the net, alongside Glaze and junior midfielder Taiva Reinertson, who each scored a goal in the first quarter. 

The game become more exciting in the second quarter as the Flames started to pull ahead against last season’s ASUN Conference champions. An early green card called on the Flames did not hold the girls back. Flames sophomore midfielder Katie Colavito scored and gave her team a 7-4 lead. Soon after, a Dolphins foul resulted in a second Glaze goal for Liberty. 

After that score, both teams found the back of the net one more time before the two-minute mark. Then, the Flames were up 9-5, and both the team and fans began to believe that they could upset Jacksonville. The defending conference champs would not go down without a fight though. The first half ended with two quick Dolphin goals, leaving the score 9-7. 

The crowd grew as the start of the second half was filled with anticipation. The Flames began the third quarter with some sloppy turnovers, and the Dolphins were able to capitalize by scoring two quick goals that tied up the game. Overall, the Flames had nine second-half turnovers compared to Jacksonville’s five. 

The Flames responded well, and senior attacker Sheive scored another goal for the team. Now with the lead, the Lady Flames went on a scoring drought once the Dolphins’ new graduate goalie Addy Tysdal settled into the net. Tysdal had eight critical saves on the day that helped Jacksonville pull away with the win. 

The Flames lost to Jacksonville 12-11 after the Dolphins’ sudden death goal. | Photo by Noah Seidlitz (@noahsdslr)

The third quarter ended with a game-tying score for the Dolphins, leaving the game at 10 apiece just before the start of the fourth quarter. Right out of the gate, though, Liberty’s seniors came to play as Sheive scored again and gave the Flames an 11-10 lead. The contest became more physical at this point. In fact, the Lady Flames ended the day with six cards and the Dolphins with five cards themselves. 

As each team’s defenses grew more and more confident, the scoring slowed down. However, Jacksonville graduate attacker Mackenzie Boyle scored the game-tying goal late in the game, which made for four on the day. 

As regulation ended and overtime began, the Flames bench was extremely rowdy in a way that carried into the crowd and the team’s play on the field. Unfortunately, their excitement wasn’t enough, and the Dolphins put out the home team’s flame with a game-ending goal scored by Boyle just over a minute into overtime. 

Although the game did not end how the Flames wanted, they were very happy with how they performed and believe that this game gave them the confidence they need as they head to Jacksonville, Florida, for the 2024 ASUN Conference Championships. 

“We played a really great game that could have gone either way,” Nangle said. “I’m proud of how the girls played, and we are ready to make adjustments and face them again.”

Hendricks is a sports reporter for the Liberty Champion

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