Liberty's Devon Jones
The Big South Champion Liberty Lady Flames fell to the North Carolina Tar Heels, 3-0, Saturday afternoon at Fetzer Field in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
It was the second straight year the two teams have met in the first round of the national tournament. The Tar Heels also won last year's contest, 3-0.
Liberty's eight-game win streak, the longest in program history, and its season come to end. Head Coach Nate Norman's team finishes his first season at Liberty with a 14-8 record. The Lady Flames received the Big South's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament by capturing its third conference title in the last four years.
North Carolina, the bracket's No. 2 seed, moves to 14-3-4 on the season and advances to play the winner of tomorrow's Kansas-Missouri contest, next week. The Tar Heels have qualified for the NCAA Tournament field in each of the tournament's 35 years.
Liberty redshirt senior goalkeeper, Holly Van Noord, the Big South Defensive Player of the Year, made a season-high 12 saves in the contest. Van Noord finishes her career as the Big South and Liberty career shutout leader with 41. The Hudsonville, Mich., native also closes her career as the program's career leader with a 0.79 goals-against leader.
Liberty was able to frustrate the Tar Heels defensively for most of the half. During the game's opening minutes, the Lady Flames were able to put pressure on the North Carolina defense.
A shot by midfielder Baylee Gillmore was blocked and sent over the end line for a corner kick during the seventh minute. However, the Tar Heels cleared it.
During the 11th minute, Big South Freshman of the Year Gabrielle Farrell forced a save by North Carolina goalkeeper Lindsey Harris with a shot from inside the 18-yard box.
Play held in the midfield during the next 15 minutes. However, during the last 20 minutes, the Tar Heels began to pick up their attack.
A diving save by Van Noord kept the contest scoreless in the 31st minute. UNC forward Bridgette Andrzejewski slipped a shot behind the Liberty goalkeeper, but she was able to dive back and smother the shot to prevent the score.
North Carolina netted the first goal of the contest during the 41st minute. Megan Firstenburg headed down a crossing pass to the far right post back across the front of the goal. Madison Short pounced on the ball at the left post and tucked the ball into the left side for her third goal of the season and a 1-0 Tar Heel edge at 40:41.
Liberty did have a scoring chance during the 44th minute. After a foul, the Lady Flames received a free kick from 25 yards out on the left side of the field. Gillmore pushed the free kick into the center of the box, but North Carolina was able to quickly clear the ball out.
The host Tar Heels continued to push their attack during the opening minutes of the second half. After two saves by Van Noord, North Carolina extended its lead to 2-0. Dorian Bailey took a through ball in the box and had a shot blocked. However, the rebound came back to Bailey, who scored her third goal of the season into an open net at 58:24.
The Tar Heels netted the final goal of the contest during the 69th minute. Abby Elinsky scored on a header off a corner kick for her first goal of the season and what proved to be the final score of 3-0.
A Liberty attack resulted in corner kick during the 78th minute. The Tar Heels cleared the ensuing kick.
North Carolina held a 29-2 advantage in shots and a 6-2 edge in corner kicks.