Junior midfielder Hannah Doherty's two goals paved the way for the No. 20 Liberty Lady Flames to clinch the program's first-ever NCAA Field Hockey Championship victory, Wednesday, defeating Richmond 3-1 in front of a raucous crowd of 433 spectators at Liberty Field Hockey Field.
With the victory, Liberty advances into the first round of the NCAA Field Hockey Championships, where it will take on No. 1 North Carolina on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at Francis E. Henry Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Lady Flames never trailed in today's contest, scoring first in the 11th minute of the competition. Junior forward Sarah Gipe continued her impressive season, netting her 19th goal of the season, tying Natalie Barr for the most goals in a single season in program history. Bethany Barr sent a pass across the front of the goal where Gipe redirected the pass into the left side of the net for the early 1-0 lead.
Just as the roar of the fans began to simmer down, Doherty punched in her fifth goal of the season, only 30 seconds after the game's first blow. Freshman Rachel Suter centered the ball from the left side, finding its way to a wide open Doherty. The Little Silver, N.J., native tipped the ball into the empty net for the two goal advantage.
The Spiders would not crawl away, cutting into the lead in the 21st minute. Emma Johansson netted her fourth goal of the season to slice the Liberty edge in half, 2-1. The Lady Flames held the one goal lead at halftime.
Doherty connected on her second goal of the game in the 49th minute to extend the Liberty lead back to two goals. Serena Barr collected her team-leading ninth assist, passing the ball across the middle to Doherty. With the defenders missing, Doherty flicked the ball past the outstretched arms of Kelley Wentling for her sixth goal of the season.
With eight minutes left in the competition Richmond pulled Wentling from the net, opting for a kicking back opportunity. The Lady Flames' defense stood tall, not surrendering a single shot in the closing minutes of competition.
With the win, No. 20 Liberty improves to 14-7 on the season, while Richmond falls to 12-10 to close out competition.
The Lady Flames stood toe-to-toe with the Spiders, outshooting Richmond 10-6 overall with a 5-4 shots on goal advantage.
Junior goalie Mallory Cuccio sent three shots in the opposite direction, bringing her saves total to 79.
Liberty returns to action when it travels to Chapel Hill, N.C., on Saturday to take on the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels. The two teams have squared off once this year, with the Lady Flames falling to the Tar Heels, 4-0 at Liberty Field Hockey Field. The NCAA First Round game is slated for 11:30 a.m.