Liberty women's lacrosse turned in a dominant effort on Saturday afternoon, defeating visiting Presbyterian, 21-5, in its Big South opener at the Liberty Lacrosse Field.
The Lady Flames' Michaela Rich led the way with a career-high six goals, which is tied for the second-most goals in a single game in program history. Freshman Anna Keebler tallied a career-high four goals in the contest. Reigning Big South Defensive Player of the Week Brianna McCaffrey poured in three goals to go along with a game-high eight ground balls, a game-high five caused turnovers and a team-best six draw controls.
PC's Sarah Marshall and Kelly Hyman each had two goals, and midfielder Megan Dreyer came up with a game-best eight draw controls.
Liberty is now 8-3 overall through its first 11 games and tied atop the Big South standings at 1-0. Presbyterian falls to 2-9 and 0-1 in the conference. The Lady Flames have now won the last six meetings against the Blue Hose, dating back to 2013.
The Lady Flames' attack featured 10 different goal scorers, and they recorded nine assists in the game.
Liberty recorded 51 shots in the contest, its second-highest output in a game in program history (52 shots at Gardner-Webb, April 12, 2017) while only allowing 12 PC shots. The Lady Flames, who are No. 1 in the country in caused turnovers, had 19 caused turnovers in the game, while PC recorded seven.
Perhaps the most impressive team stat of the day for Liberty was its defense limiting the Blue Hose to just 9-of-26 (34.6 percent) on clear attempts, when PC came into the game averaging 72.2 percent on its clearing efforts. The Lady Flames also won the ground ball battle, 36-21, led by McCaffrey (eight) and freshman defender Maddi Little (five).
The Lady Flames scored 11 goals before halftime and 10 more goals after intermission, despite playing the final 20-plus minutes with a running clock.
It took Liberty a little bit of time to its offensive rhythm, as the Lady Flames only had two goals (McCaffrey, White) over the first 12-plus minutes in holding a 2-1 lead. In the middle of the opening half, Liberty used a 6-1 run to build an 8-2 lead with 12:20 left. During that spurt, Keebler scored twice, while Rich, Hannah Quast, White and Jenna Joyal each notched goals. Joyal's goal was set up by a McCaffrey caused turnover and ground ball pickup, which she fed ahead to Grace Fletcher on the fastbreak. Fletcher found her fellow sophomore, Joyal, for her 16th goal of the year.
Rich, Britton and McCaffrey closed out the first-half scoring for Liberty. PC's Kathleen Gerrits' goal with 2:55 left in the half cut the Liberty lead down to 10-4, but McCaffrey's unassisted goal at the 1:17 mark made it 11-4, Lady Flames, at the break.
The Lady Flames dashed PC's comeback efforts with a 5-1 run to start the second frame, capped off by Rich's fourth goal of the game with 19:03 remaining to make it 16-5.
In the second half, freshman Brooke Bryan, sophomore Molly Blake and freshman Emily Browne all scored their second career goals. Brown also set a new career high with two draw controls in the match.
Senior defender Lindsey McNamara and junior attacker Brittany Tickle each tallied their first career assists in the second half, while Kaitlyn Cassidy-Fischetti added her first helper of the year. McNamara's assist came on Rich's sixth and final goal of the day with 7:20 left, which proved to be the last goal for either team in the 21-5 final.
Lady Flames goalkeepers Aubrie Tarris and Katherine Widrick split time evenly in goal, with Tarris (5-2) making four saves in the first 30 minutes of play in a winning effort. Widrick only needed to make one stop, as Liberty outshot PC, 20-4, in the second half. Blue Hose goalkeeper Kayla Koch (1-8) made 15 saves and let in 18 goals.
On Wednesday, Liberty will welcome another Big South foe, Gardner-Webb, to town. The Lady Flames and Runnin' Bulldogs (2-9, 0-1 BSC) will face each other at 4 p.m. at the Liberty Lacrosse Field.