Liberty claimed NorPac titles in 2013 and 2014.
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By Alan Good, Liberty Field Hockey Assistant Coach
Fairytale endings in sport are the exception rather than the rule, but Liberty alum Jordan (Richardson) Bartlett has a spectacular memory that nobody can take from her.
Being a part of the team that claimed Liberty Field Hockey's maiden NorPac Conference championship with a 2-1 upset win over Stanford in 2013 was something special for Bartlett. But assisting the winning goal for her roommate Natalie Barr in the closing minutes was quite a way to ice that cake.
"The minute she put it in, I was standing on the right post, and we instantly just rushed to each other in celebration," remembered Bartlett, the Youth Programs Director and Communications Manager for Texas Pride Field Hockey in Houston, Texas. "It was such a close and hard-fought game. I think that was the moment we realized we had truly done it, and there was a good chance we could win that game.
"The crowd went wild, and we were all tearing up on the field. We were also roommates and had been dreaming up this moment together for weeks prior in hopes we would make it to the championship, which just made it a little extra sweet."
After leading a Lady Flames penalty corner defense that repelled 10 Stanford penalty corners in front of 750 fans on Liberty's home turf, the denouement was an emotional moment for Erin (Dombach) Danehower too.
"When I think of that game, I recall the surreal feeling that I was overwhelmed by when I heard the final whistle," said Danehower, a Wellness Coordinator in Lancaster, Pa., who is also still involved in field hockey as the assistant varsity coach at Manheim Central High School.
"The rush of emotions I experienced as the team ran together in celebration is a moment I will never forget, and it was followed by fans rushing on the field and continued celebration with teammates, coaches, family and friends. Celebrating our win with all of the people that helped contribute to our team's success is one of my favorite memories."
Liberty had unfinished business with Stanford, who had inflicted a 3-0 defeat on them in the NorPac title decider in 2012. The stats from the 2013 decider suggest it threatened to be more of the same, as the Cardinals outshot the Lady Flames 15-7 and drew 11 penalty corners to Liberty's two.
But Liberty goalkeeper and tournament MVP Ann Jefferis stopped six shots, while Danehower's resolute penalty corner defense was breached just once by Stanford's Alex McCawley. That was sandwiched between two spectacular Natalie Barr strikes for Liberty in a frantic closing minutes.
It was a memorable chapter in a LUFH history that is short but storied. Their breakout success came in just the third season of the program – which was founded in 2011 – and was the first of back-to-back NorPac ttles, a remarkable validation of the vision of the program's founding head coach, Jodi Murphy.
"It was a combination of things that I think helped us get to that point so quickly," recalled Bartlett. "We had the best leadership in Jodi, Jacki (Bolt, assistant coach) and Tilly (Brampton, assistant coach). They each played a crucial role in portraying and implementing the vision for what the team could become since the inaugural season.
"I specifically remember having a team meeting in the courtyard of DeMoss after a workout in the old Schilling gym in the first days of team training, where Coach (Murphy) told us all that we were going to do something different and special, something that had never been done before. She said it wouldn't be easy but promised it would be worth it. And she was right."
Bartlett also recalls that a unified sense of purpose was a crucial component of their success: "The whole team was 100 percent bought in during that 2013 season. We all committed to giving everything to the season, on and off the field. We always said no one would outwork us, and we made sure that would happen with extra training and putting in time outside of practice.
"Once we got about halfway into the season we also committed to clean eating, temporarily deleting our social media accounts to eliminate distractions and various other things. These commitments were a challenging change in our normal routines, but we all saw and felt the results of our commitment pretty quickly, as we had some close games with highly ranked teams. It only motivated us even more to stay so focused."
Danehower also remembers feeling inspired by her coaches that season and highlights numerous themes that remain woven into the fabric of the LUFH program to this day.
"The coaching staff challenged us to push ourselves beyond what we thought we were capable of accomplishing," she said. "Each player worked her hardest to support her teammates both on and off the field. These close knit relationships between players, paired with our grit and work ethic, were crucial factors in the team's growth and success."