The Liberty lacrosse team defeated visiting Radford, 13-10, in Big South play, Wednesday evening at the Liberty Lacrosse Field.
With the victory, the Lady Flames (5-11, 4-2 Big South) remain tied with Winthrop (7-9, 4-2 Big South) for third place in the conference, with a big showdown against the Eagles looming on Saturday in Rock Hill, S.C. Radford (6-9, 2-4 Big South) falls to 0-2 all-time against Liberty.
Prior to the contest, the team honored its seven seniors (Ashlyn Altieri, Eden Bayuk, Paige Britton, Courtney Brown, Casey Thate, Victoria Tickle and Melanie Via), and several of them played crucial roles in the win.
Senior Courtney Brown scored three first-half goals for the home side, while defenders Victoria Tickle, Melanie Via and Casey Thate were part of a stout defensive unit that caused 25 turnovers and collected 40 ground balls. Both marks are the second-most in a contest in program history.
Tickle put together the best game of her career with six caused turnovers and six ground balls. Her six forced turnovers is tied for the second-most by a Lady Flame in a single contest in school history. Meanwhile, Via notched four ground balls and two caused turnovers and Thate corralled a pair of ground balls.
Liberty also managed to outshoot Radford, 47-27. The 47 shots by the Lady Flames are the third-highest total in Liberty lacrosse history. Radford won the battle for draw controls, 15-10.
The Lady Flames scored the first four tallies of the night and never trailed in the contest. Kayla Foster's only goal of the evening came at the 22:58 mark in the first half on a feed from Grace Fletcher, putting the host Lady Flames on top, 1-0. Foster, the team's points leader, added three assists to elevate her point total to 53 in 16 games.
Liberty's next two markers came from Paige Britton and Kaitlyn Cassidy-Fischetti on free-position shots. Just 30 seconds after Cassidy-Fischetti's goal, freshman Jenna Joyal (1 g, 3 a) found a cutting Brown, who buried a left-handed shot into the right side of the net to give Liberty a 4-0 lead with 13:40 left in the opening half.
Over the next 9:21, Radford scored four goals to even the contest, 4-4, with 3:32 left in the half. Adrian Rius (5 g, 1 a, 9 dc) accounted for two of the markers, while Juliette Ruland and Emma Rogers found the back of the frame as well.
But Liberty closed the opening stanza on a 3-0 run, fueled by a goal from Joyal and pair of tallies from Brown. Joyal's goal, a lefty strike from inside the eight-meter arc, was her eighth of 2017. Brown's third goal of the match and 14th of her senior campaign was deflected by Highlanders netminder Jenny Davis before slowly trickling in the goal with 1.2 seconds left. The goal staked the Lady Flames to a 7-4 advantage at intermission.
Following a successful clear attempt early in the second half, Brianna McCaffrey entered the Highlanders' zone and ripped a left-handed shot into the top left corner for her first goal of the night just 53 seconds into the second half, providing Liberty an 8-4 lead.
Goals from Ruland and Amanda Paino brought RU back within two (8-6) with 20:48 left before freshmen Carly White and Fletcher scored goals 22 seconds apart. Fletcher's lone goal on the evening, her 16th of the year, made it 10-6 Liberty with 20:02 remaining.
The Highlanders answered with a 3-0 run of their own over the next 2:53, capped off by back-to-back tallies off the stick of Rius. Her fourth of the evening closed the gap to 10-9 with 14:52 left and caused the Lady Flames to take a timeout to regroup.
Following the timeout, Liberty Lacrosse Head Coach Kelly Nangle elected to make a switch in goal. Aubrie Tarris replaced Katherine Widrick (seven saves) in net.
The Lady Flames' offense once again came to life in a crucial stretch, as leading scorer McCaffrey notched back-to-back goals to push the lead to three (12-9) with 8:52 on the clock. McCaffrey's second marker of the evening was a solo effort in which she sliced through the Radford defense and sent a shot into the right side of the goal. Her third and final tally of the night (30th of the year) was set up by Joyal's third assist of the evening.
In the waning minutes, Liberty worked the clock and found the back of the goal one more time. White scored her second of the night and 17th of the season with 3:19 remaining, pushing the Lady Flames' lead to 13-9.
Rius' fifth and final goal of the evening with 14 seconds left in the match settled the final score at 13-10.
Widrick (4-6) was credited with the fourth win of her sophomore campaign, while Tarris made two stops in the final 14:52 of the game. Davis (4-4) was saddled with the loss despite making 18 saves in net.
"It's always great to get a win on Senior Day and send the seniors out on a high note. The girls battled tonight and fought for the win. We got some great experience tonight in pulling out a win in a close game," Nangle stated. "We've been talking a lot about the gaps and being able to gain momentum from them, and I think we did that tonight when we needed it most. I'm proud of them for finding a way. We are excited to get back to work tomorrow to prepare for Winthrop on Saturday."
Liberty will face Winthrop on Saturday afternoon in its regular-season finale, with third place in the Big South on the line. The contest will begin at 1 p.m. at Eagle Field in Rock Hill, S.C.
Senior Reflections "To Coach [Nangle}, thank you for the privilege and opportunity. To my dad, mom, and Jordan, thank you for always believing in me. To the freshmen class, you all are truly something special." Eden Bayuk
"I want to thank the coaches and Joey [Lyons] for everything, and for my team. I'm thankful that the Lord put me on this team. It has honestly been the best team I've gotten to be a part of and I love everyone so much." Paige Britton
"I would like to thank God for the opportunity to play the sport I love in college and use it as a platform for His glory. I would like to thank my team this year for their love and acceptance and my coaches for giving me the best senior year I could ever imagine. I would like to thank Adam for being my family at games and for making my boat better. I would especially like to thank my dad for being my ultimate supporter and for always believing in me as I pursue my dreams. You are simply the best!" Courtney Brown
"I would like to thank my family for their encouragement, support and love over the years. I would also like to thank the coaches for allowing me the opportunity to play for Liberty, as well as well as all of our support staff. I would especially like to thank my teammates, who have brought so much joy, laughter and unforgettable memories in my life." Casey Thate
"I want to thank my family, teammates, coaches and support staff who have made these past four years here at Liberty unforgettable. I am truly blessed to have gained amazing sisters each year that I was here. I will forever cherish the growth and memories spent each day with all of you." Victoria Tickle
"Thank you to my family, teammates and coaches for the best five years." Melanie Via