National Runner-Up Liberty Features Program-Best 6 Players on 2021 NFHCA All-Region Teams
Coming off a historic season, the Liberty field hockey team featured a program-record six players on the 2021 National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Division I All-South Region teams.
Jill Bolton, Daniella Rhodes, Bethany Dykema and Azul Iritxity Irigoyen all received NFHCA All-South Region first team recognition. Liberty’s four first team honorees is also a school record and led all teams in a strong South Region. Meanwhile, Jodie Conolly and Lizzie Hamlett were recognized on the NFHCA All-South Region second team.
The Lady Flames’ six honorees establishes a new school record for most all-region recipients in a season, surpassing the previous record of five set by the spring 2021 squad. Liberty has featured 19 all-region selections over the past five seasons.
Liberty concluded its season yesterday, playing in the NCAA Field Hockey Championship title game for the first time in program history. The Northwestern Wildcats topped the Liberty Lady Flames 2-0 in the championship game at Michigan’s Phyllis Ocker Field Hockey Field. Liberty reached the title game after a thrilling 3-2 double overtime triumph over No. 5 Maryland, last Friday in the Final Four.
Liberty finished the season with a program-record 20 wins, which included a 17-game winning streak, and only three losses. The Lady Flames featured the nation’s top offense this season, leading the country in goals per game (3.48), scoring average (3.38), points per game (9.96) and assists per game (3.00).
Division I teams are separated into five regions: Mid-Atlantic, Mideast, Northeast, South and West. Each region honors up to 16 student-athletes on a first team and up to 16 student-athletes on a second team. The NFHCA Division I All-Region team announcement is first in a list of postseason accolades to come out over the next several weeks. Next to be announced are the NFHCA Regional Players of the Year a week from today, followed by NFHCA All-American teams on Dec. 14 and the NFHCA National Player of the Year on Dec.
Jill Bolton (NFHCA All-South Region first team)
Bolton is the first player in program history to earn all-region honors five times. The senior forward from Souderton, Pa. also became the first five-time All-BIG EAST first team recipient this fall. Bolton, the BIG EAST Championship MVP and All-Tournament team selection, led the Lady Flames in goals (19) and points (45) this season and finished the year ranked No. 8 in the nation in points per game (1.96) and No. 10 in goals per game (0.83).
Bolton earned NCAA Field Hockey Championship All-Tournament team honors for her performance in the Final Four. The senior also received one NFHCA Division I Offensive Player of the Week honor and garnered inclusion on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll once.
Bolton wraps up her decorated Liberty career as the program record holder in goals (61) and points (156) and ranks third in assists (34).
Daniella Rhodes (NFHCA All-South Region first team)
Rhodes is now a three-time NFHCA All-South Region first team honoree. The junior forward earned her first BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year recognition and her third All-BIG EAST first team distinction this season. She led all BIG EAST players in goals per game (1.07) and points per game (2.64) during the regular season. Rhodes also earned BIG EAST Championship All-Tournament team honors.
Rhodes earned three BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Week recognitions this year while also being named to the BIG EAST All-Tournament team. The Durban, South Africa native finished second on the squad in goals (16) and points (39). She closed the season ranked 10th nationally in points per game (1.95) and 11th in goals per game (0.80).
Through three seasons (54 games), Rhodes has established herself in the program record book, ranking third in fourth in career points (112), fifth in career goals (45) and tied for eighth in career assists (22). Rhodes is also second in career points per game (2.07) and goals per game (0.83).
Bethany Dykema (NFHCA All-South Region first team)
Dykema is receiving her second career all-region award after earning second team all-region distinction during the spring 2021 campaign. The junior from Newport News, Va., was also an All-BIG EAST first team selection for the second time and garnered BIG EAST Championship All-Tournament team recognition in helping Liberty to its first-ever BIG EAST title.
Dykema, a defender, finished the season with eight goals, nine assists (third on team), 25 points (third on team) and one defensive save. Dykema and the Liberty defense tallied seven shutouts in 2021, tied for the second most in a season in program history. The Lady Flames finished the year ranked No. 11 in the country in goals-against-average (1.14). Dykema was recognized on the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll, Oct. 20.
Azul Iritxity Irigoyen (NFHCA All-South Region first team)
Iritxity Irigoyen, a sophomore goalkeeper, earned her second straight All-BIG EAST first team honor this fall and was also one of three Lady Flames to be named to the NCAA Field Hockey Championship All-Tournament team. The Buenos Aires, Argentina native earned three BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Week recognitions this season and made the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll once.
Iritxity Irigoyen made a season-high nine saves in No. 9 Liberty’s 3-2 win over No. 5 Maryland in the Final Four. The sophomore made seven saves in the national championship game, including the most memorable save of her young career. Iritxity Irigoyen saved a penalty stroke attempt from No. 7 Northwestern’s Bente Baekers in the second quarter of the title game.
Iritxity Irigoyen finished the year with a 20-3 record, 1.17 goals-against-average (No. 11 in country), .724 save percentage, 71 saves and six shutouts. Through two seasons, Iritxity Irigoyen is tied for second in program history in shutouts (9), second in save percentage (.758) and third in wins (31).
Jodie Conolly (NFHCA All-South Region second team)
Conolly receives her second all-region honor during her time at Liberty and third career all-region accolade (other: All-Northeast Region second team in 2019 while at Boston University). The junior defender from Pietermartizburg, South Africa earned All-BIG EAST second team honors this fall.
Conolly received the BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Week award on Nov. 2 and also made the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll (Sept. 21). The junior paced the team in assists with 11, ranking 30th in the nation in assists per game (0.50). Conolly added three goals, 17 points and two defensive saves (second on team), this fall. Conolly and the Liberty defense surrendered only eight goals on 87 penalty corners from their opponents (9.2 percent) in 23 contests.
Lizzie Hamlett (NFHCA All-South Region second team)
Hamlett earns the first all-region honor of her career. The senior midfielder from Fredericksburg, Va. was honored on the All-BIG EAST second team this season. She garnered BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Week distinction once (Nov. 2) and made the BIG EAST Weekly Honor Roll one time as well (Sept. 14).
Hamlett finished third on the team in goals (9) and fourth in points (23) while also adding five assists. The senior was instrumental in securing the Lady Flames’ first-ever BIG EAST regular season title, scoring both goals in Liberty’s 2-1 win over Old Dominion on Oct. 29 at the Liberty Field Hockey Field. The win capped off a perfect 7-0 BIG EAST regular season for Liberty, with Hamlett’s second goal of the day being the game winner with 39 seconds remaining. Hamlett finished the season with three multiple-goal games, tied for the most on the squad.