No. 4 seed Liberty fell to No. 1 seed High Point, 20-9, on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Todd Drexler)
No. 4 seed Liberty could not overcome an early 9-0 deficit, falling, 20-9, to No. 1 seed High Point in the Big South Women's Lacrosse Championship semifinals, Friday at Vert Stadium.
The Lady Flames finish the season with a 6-13 record, while the Panthers improve to 14-3 overall with their 14th consecutive win. High Point will move on to Sunday's championship game at noon, where the Panthers will face the winner of this evening's contest between No. 2 Campbell (9-7) and No. 3 Winthrop (9-9).
Darla Poulin and Big South Offensive Player of the Year Samantha Brown paced High Point with five goals apiece, while sophomore Brianna McCaffrey netted four goals for Liberty.
High Point seized control from the opening whistle, racing out to a 9-0 lead in the game's first 9:02. Brown found Poulin for her first two tallies just 22 seconds apart, with the second goal giving the Panthers a 2-0 edge with 27:05 to play in the opening stanza.
Following a Liberty timeout, goals from the Panthers' Erica Perrotta and two tallies from Brooke Stevens extended the home lead to 5-0. Brown scored her 49th and 50th markers of the year to push the High Point lead to 7-0 with 22:02 remaining in the half. Ashley Britton and Emory Gaeng's first goals of the day staked the Panthers to a 9-0 advantage with 20:58 left on the first-half clock.
Liberty's first goal of the contest came from McCaffrey, her 37th of the year. McCaffrey created her own fastbreak opportunity and fired a low bouncing shot past Panthers goalkeeper Jill Rall and into the net to trim the deficit to 9-1 at the 18:07 mark.
Following Ashley Britton's second goal of the match, her sister Paige Britton, a Lady Flames midfielder, scored from the left side of the eight-meter arc, her 23rd of the year. The goal brought Liberty to within eight, 10-2, with 14:21 on the clock.
However, the Panthers closed the opening frame on a 5-2 run, fueled by Brown's third and fourth goals of the game. McCaffrey scored the Lady Flames' final two markers of the opening half, including her third of the contest with 37.1 seconds left. Liberty trailed, 15-4, at intermission after being outshot, 26-4.
Liberty played High Point to an even 5-5 score in the second half while holding a 7-5 edge in draw controls and tying the Panthers in shots, 12-12.
After Perrotta gave High Point a 12-goal lead (16-4) just 70 seconds into the second frame, McCaffrey and fellow sophomore Kayla Foster brought the score to 16-6 with a pair of goals. McCaffrey's marker was her 40th of the season, tied for the third-most goals in a single season in Liberty lacrosse history. Foster's 32nd tally of 2017 came with 25:38 remaining and brought her point total for the year to 65, the third most in a season in school history.
High Point's final four goals of the contest came from Poulin (2), Brown (1) and Allie Little (1). The Lady Flames' final three tallies came from the sticks of freshman Grace Fletcher and senior Courtney Brown. Fletcher scored a free-position goal with 17:51 left to make it 17-7.
Brown's pair of goals came in the final six minutes of play. She scored the first on a feed from Kaitlyn Cassidy-Fischetti with 5:46 left, and her second of the match (18th of the season) came on a pass from Foster with 2:23 remaining to settle the final score at 20-9.
Liberty goalkeeper Katherine Widrick (5-8) made six saves in the first half while yielding 15 goals in the defeat. Aubrie Tarris played the second half in net for the Lady Flames, surrendering five goals while making four stops. Rall (13-0) was credited with the victory. The High Point freshman made four saves against nine goals.
High Point held advantages in shots (38-16) and ground balls (26-19) while committing fewer turnovers (19) than Liberty (31). The visiting Lady Flames won 16 draw controls, compared to 15 for the Panthers. Foster won a game-high nine draw controls for Liberty, while Widrick and Panthers midfielder Samantha Herman led their respective squads with four ground balls apiece.