Liberty women's lacrosse continued its historic start to the 2018 season, using a second-half surge to take down visiting William & Mary, 11-7, on Wednesday evening at the Liberty Lacrosse Field.
Liberty closes out its non-conference portion of the schedule with a 7-3 record, its most wins ever out of conference in a season in program history. The win was also the Lady Flames' first-ever victory over the Tribe. William & Mary is now 4-6 overall and has lost two straight.
A trio of Lady Flames upperclassmen led the charge, as junior Kayla Foster, junior Brianna McCaffrey and redshirt senior Michaela Rich combined for 10 of the 11 goals. Liberty also received stout goalkeeping efforts from juniors Aubrie Tarris (seven saves) and Katherine Widrick (seven saves). Widrick (3-1) picked up the win on Wednesday with seven saves against just three goals allowed in the final 30 minutes.
"This was a great win for us tonight. William & Mary is a good team that we've never beaten, so for the girls to come out and grind out that win, it's big for our program," said Liberty Women's Lacrosse Head Coach Kelly Nangle. "I am proud of how they fought for 60 minutes and kept up the intensity throughout the game."
William & Mary's McKinley Wade and Maddie Torgerson both scored two goals off the bench to pace the Tribe. Goalkeeper Elsa Rall (2-5) made 14 saves and yielded 11 goals in a losing effort.
Liberty trailed, 4-3, at halftime but dominated the majority of the second half, outscoring William & Mary, 8-3, after intermission. With the contest tied at 5-5 with 22:44 to go, the Lady Flames went on a 6-0 run over the next 14:10 to put the game out of reach (11-5). During that stretch, Rich and McCaffrey each scored two times, while Foster and sophomore Carly White added markers.
Both teams struggled to find an offensive rhythm in the opening minutes. The Tribe's Sophie Kopec scored the game's first goal over nine minutes in, providing the visitors a 1-0 edge with 20:43 left in the opening half. McCaffrey and Foster tallied goals to give Liberty a brief lead (2-1) in the middle of the half.
William & Mary's Eloise Gagnon (free-position shot), McKinley Wade (free-position shot) and Maddie Torgeson notched goals in the closing minutes of the first half, with Torgeson's goal with 49 seconds left making it 4-3 in favor of the Tribe at halftime.
Foster opened the scoring in the second half to tie the match at 4-apiece with 28:01 left. The Pennsylvania native drew a free-position attempt, and instead of crashing hard to the net, she exhibited patience. The junior took a step back and then maneuvered into the arc before ripping a shot in the top left corner. Just over a minute later, Foster scored another highlight-reel goal, finding the right side of the cage on a quick strike off a feed from Rich to make it 5-4, Lady Flames, with 26:46 remaining.
Following Torgerson's second goal of the night at the 22:44 mark, Liberty scored the next six goals. Liberty went ahead for good (6-5), as Foster sent a crossing pass from the left side over to Rich. Rich collected the pass, faked out Rall and scored on a left-handed shot.
Shortly after, McCaffrey's goal made it 7-5. The three-time Big South Defensive Player of the Week caused a turnover, raced up the field and was rewarded with a pass from Jenna Joyal. McCaffrey buried the shot, making it 7-5 Liberty with 20:41 left. White closed out the scoring spree with her 17th goal of the season, assisted by freshman Mia Toscano. White's tally made it a six-goal margin, 11-5, with 8:34 left in the game.
William & Mary's Wade (5:05 left) and Anne Milwicz (4:33 left) scored the final two goals of the game.
Liberty, which came into the contest leading the nation in caused turnovers per game (13.56), notched 14 more on Wednesday. Five Liberty players had two caused turnovers: McCaffrey, White, Sarah Steenson, Joyal and Lindsey McNamara. The Tribe's Cameron MacDonald led all players with six caused turnovers in the match.
Liberty also won the battle in the draw circle, 13-7, paced by a game-high six draw controls from McCaffrey.
With three more goals on Wednesday, McCaffrey now has 13 goals over her last four contests. She paces the squad with 23 goals on the season. With her six-point effort (4 g, 2 a), Foster leads the team with 31 points (14 g, 17 a) in 10 games.
Liberty outshot William & Mary, 33-28. The Tribe held a slight edge in ground balls (23-22). The Lady Flames assisted on seven of their 11 goals on the night.
The Lady Flames' win total (7) so far this season is one more than Liberty had all of last year (6-13 record). Of Liberty's seven wins, six have come against schools the Lady Flames had never previously defeated.
"These girls keep finding ways to get it done and get better in the process. We are excited to kick off conference play this weekend," Nangle added.
Liberty will now turn its attention to Big South competition. On Saturday, the Lady Flames will host the Presbyterian Blue Hose (2-8) at 1 p.m. at the Liberty Lacrosse Field.