Despite holding the third ranked offense below their season average, No. 20 Liberty fell short on Saturday, 2-1, to No. 1 North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA Field Hockey Championship.
After exchanging goals midway through the first half, the Tar Heels netted the eventual game-winner during 29th minute to down the Lady Flames at Henry Stadium.
With the loss, Liberty finishes the season 14-8 and as the two-time defending NorPac champions. North Carolina improves to 18-3 and advances to the second round to face the winner of No. 9 Duke and No. 7 Northwestern.
North Carolina struck first seven minutes into the contest after earning their second attacking penalty corner of the half. Emma Bozek connected on her 13th goal of the season to give the Tar Heels the early lead.
However, the Lady Flames gathered their composure to tie the game during the 14th minute of play. Freshman forward Alynn Richardson connected on her fourth and arguably biggest goal of the season, redirecting the pass from Ashlee Krulock. Krulock passed the ball by North Carolina goalkeeper Shannon Johnson, to a wide-open Richardson. The freshman reacted like a veteran, placing the ball into the back of the net for the equalizer.
The Tar Heels regained the lead during the closing minutes of the first half, following their fourth attacking corner in the contest. Nina Notman shot the ball toward the right post, with Casey Di Nardo redirecting the ball into the corner for the 2-1 lead into halftime.
The Lady Flames picked up the pace of play to start the second half, earning their first two attacking corners of the contest during the 37th minute. Liberty sent one shot on goal that was denied by Johnson.
The second half saw a much more defensive element, with just four shots on goal between the two teams and four saves.
Liberty battled back and forth with the top ranked Tar Heels, tallying five shots in the second half compared to six from North Carolina. The Lady Flames earned five attacking corners in the half to just three from the opposing side.
Mallory Cuccio finished the contest with four saves, eclipsing the 80-save mark on the year, finishing the season with 83 saves.
After assisting in the Liberty goal, Krulock finished the season tied with Serena Barr for the team-leading nine assists.
Liberty's defense withstood a prominent attack from the Tar Heels penalty corners unit, turning away five short corners for the contest.