Northwestern Tops Liberty 2-0 in National Championship Game
No. 7 Northwestern scored two third quarter goals on the way to a 2-0 victory over No. 9 Liberty in the NCAA Field Hockey Championship title game, Sunday at Phyllis Ocker Field Hockey Field.
Northwestern’s title is its first in program history. The Wildcats finish the year at 17-5. Liberty’s appearance in the championship game was its first in school history. Liberty finishes the historic season with a 20-3 mark and sees a 17-game winning streak snapped. Sunday’s NCAA Field Hockey Championship title game was the first time since 1987 that two teams met in a title match who had not previously played in it before.
Northwestern’s Alia Marshall and Maddie Zimmer scored goals in the third quarter. Marshall’s goal on a penalty corner in the 36th minute was followed by a Zimmer goal in the 45th minute to build the two-goal cushion. Liberty entered the game as the nation’s top offense but was shut out for the first time since Oct. 28, 2019 at No. 6 Virginia.
Liberty’s Charlotte Vaanhold, Jill Bolton and Azul Iritxity Irigoyen earned NCAA Field Hockey Championship All-Tournament team recognition for their efforts this weekend. Vaanhold scored two goals, including the game winner, against No. 5 Maryland in the national semifinals on Friday. Bolton scored a goal in the win over the Terrapins as well, while Iritxity Irigoyen made 16 saves in the two Final Four games.
36’ – NORTHWESTERN – Alia Marshall (Maren Seidel)
45’ – NORTHWESTERN – Maddie Zimmer (unassisted)
W: Annabel Skubisz 16-5, two saves
L: Azul Iritxity Irigoyen 20-3, seven saves
Neither team broke through for a goal in the first half despite back-and-forth action that featured a combined 21 shots (12-9 Northwestern edge) and 11 penalty corners (6-5 Northwestern edge). The play of the first half came from Liberty sophomore goalkeeper Azul Iritxity Irigoyen, who made a diving stop on a penalty stroke from Northwestern’s Bente Baekers. Iritxity Irigoyen also made three saves in the closing minute of the opening half to keep the Wildcats off the scoreboard.
Northwestern broke through at the 35:53 mark with the penalty corner goal from Marshall into the left side, assisted by Seidel. In the closing minute of the third quarter, the Wildcats tacked on another goal. Zimmer entered the right side of the circle and ripped a shot heading towards the left side of the cage that deflected off a Liberty defender and in for a 2-0 advantage with 6.3 seconds left in the third.
Liberty pulled its goalkeeper for an extra field player with 6:50 remaining but managed just one shot and no penalty corners in the closing minutes.
Key Stats & Notes
• Northwestern held edges in total shots (15-10), shots on goal (9-3) and penalty corners (7-5). The Wildcats held the Lady Flames to one shot and no penalty corners in the second half.
• The Wildcats handed the Lady Flames two of their three losses this season. Northwestern edged Liberty 4-3 back on Sept. 7 at the Liberty Field Hockey Field.
• Bolton, Jodie Conolly, Maddie Hosler and Bethany Dykema led the way for Liberty with two shots apiece.
• Liberty finishes the season with a 10-3 record against top-25 teams, its most ranked wins in a season in school history. The Lady Flames had won nine games in a row against ranked foes prior to today’s setback.
• At 29 years old, Liberty Head Coach Nikki Parsley-Blocker was the youngest coach in Division I field hockey history to coach in a championship game.
• Bolton wraps up a storied career as the program’s all-time leader in goals (61) and points (156). She also is third in school history in assists (34).
• Liberty’s 20 victories this season are the most in school history.
• The Lady Flames drop to 4-3 all-time in NCAA Field Hockey Championship play in three appearances. Liberty posted a 3-1 record in this year’s NCAA Tournament.