Athletics News

February 17, 2016

Field hockey joins Big East Conference

Bethany Barr

Bethany Barr

The Lady Flames field hockey team received some exciting news in the postseason when it was welcomed as an affiliate member of the BIG EAST Conference, starting next fall.

“The BIG EAST is one of the best conferences in the country,” Liberty Head Coach Jodi Murphy said. “It houses back-to-back (2013-14) national champion UConn and the caliber of the conference as a whole is really strong.”

The Lady Flames swept their three contests against BIG EAST foes last season — by one goal each, with two coming in overtime and one over 15th-ranked rival Old Dominion University.

“We kind of had an idea that things were going to work out and fall into our favor with the BIG EAST,” Murphy said. “It’s been a long process … since we first got word that the NorPac Conference was going to be dissolving. It’s been a lot of prayer and a lot of patience, and we’ve learned a lot through it. (Joining) the BIG EAST is only going to continue to advance our program to be a top-10 team and help our recruiting. We know that our work is nowhere near finished, and now this next chapter is beginning.” 

The Lady Flames will graduate 11 of their 25 players this spring, but have an extremely talented class of incoming recruits.

“I’m excited about the freshman class,” Murphy said. “They have a lot of personality, and they’re really talented. You can’t replace those seniors, but hopefully, they’ll fill their shoes and fill their roles in unique ways.”

Seniors Ashlee Krulock and Natalie Barr and juniors Bethany and Serena Barr (Natalie’s twin sisters) received National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-South Region honors. Krulock and Natalie Barr were named to the Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID) All-State first team. Natalie Barr, who also earned NFHCA All-American third team accolades, led the Lady Flames with 33 points on the year, tying Krulock (32) with 14 goals.

Flames seniors named All-Americans

Chima Uzowihe

Chima Uzowihe

Liberty Football will graduate an exceptionally talented senior class this year, led by 2015 Associated Press (AP) FCS All-America second team offensive lineman Jonathan Burgess and defensive end Chima Uzowihe, who recorded 17 tackles for loss and eight sacks on the season and a BSC all-time-best 25 sacks for his career. His 44.0 career tackles for loss ranks second in program history and third in the BSC record book.

The Flames will also lose fourth-year starting quarterback Josh Woodrum (who threw for 2,772 yards and 12 touchdowns this fall) and his top passing target, wide receiver Darrin Peterson (68 catches, 906 yards, seven TDs), as well as placekicker John Lunsford, who kicked 12 field goals of 50 yards or longer during his career.

Burgess, Uzowihe, and Lunsford were also selected to the 2015 STATS FCS All-America second team. Additionally, Uzowihe was the sixth player in program history to be named to the 2015 Football Championship Subdivision Athletics Directors Association (FCS ADA) Academic All-Star Team.

These All-Americans contributed to monumental highs for the program this season, including upset victories over Montana (ranked No. 7 in the Football Championship Subdivision [FCS] ) in front of a Williams Stadium record crowd of 22,551, at Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) member Georgia State, and at home over fourth-ranked Big South Conference (BSC) rival Coastal Carolina, set to join the FBS next season.

Women’s soccer defends conference tournament crown

Brianne Beard

Brianne Beard

The Lady Flames (13-8-1, 8-2 Big South Conference) earned their fifth BSC tournament title, moving into a tie with High Point and Radford for the most crowns in conference history. They also advanced to the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons before losing to North Carolina.

Redshirt junior goalie Holly Van Noord’s 10th shutout of the seasonand BSC career-record-tying 33rd of her careerhelped the top-seeded Liberty’s women’s soccer team edge No. 3 Longwood University 1-0 in the championship game played Nov. 8 in Greensboro, N.C.

Kurgat places 12th at  NCAA championships

Ednah Kurgat

Ednah Kurgat

Lady Flames freshman and Kenyan native Ednah Kurgat made program history with her 12th-place finish in the women’s 6K at the Nov. 21 NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Louisville, Ky. While breaking her own program record with a time of 20 minutes, 6.7 seconds, she also became Liberty’s first-ever women’s All-American. She placed fifth among freshmen in the field of 254 competitors and received the highest placement ever by a Liberty freshman at the championships.

Club Sports student-athletes raise GPA’s through new partnerships

Student-athletes in Liberty University’s Club Sports Department, which includes 35 men’s and women’s teams, are consistently showing improvement in their academic performance thanks to new partnerships with Liberty’s College of Applied Studies & Academic Success (CASAS) and College Learning Strategies (CLST).

Through an enhanced tutoring and mentoring program, the overall grade-point averages for the Flames’ 500-plus Club Sports student-athletes have risen significantly — from 2.80 in Fall 2014 and 2.88 in Spring 2015 to 3.09 last fall. Cumulative GPAs during that time increased from 2.93 to 3.09.

“Kirk Handy (Liberty’s athletic director for Club Sports) and his staff are doing an outstanding job of fielding both successful athletic teams as well as quality student performance in the classroom,” said Lee Beaumont, Liberty’s senior vice president for Auxiliary Services.

Student-athletes have also benefited from the guidance of Donna Holland, an academic advisor with CASAS, and Sarah Boettger, an adjunct professor who heads up the Club Sports’ mentorship program using CLST methods.

“We have a goal to get every team’s average above a 2.5 GPA and this first semester we hit that, so I’m really impressed,” said Sarah Morris, Club Sports’ academic coordinator, working under assistant director Tatiana Payne. “Just being there for students and giving them an accountability system has helped. Giving them the freedom to set their own schedule and being able to monitor them has been a crucial step in their turnaround.”

Women’s swimming achieves its highest national ranking

Ashley Mauzy

Ashley Mauzy

During the fall season, the Lady Flames earned their highest national rankings to date — No. 4 in the Mid-Major Rankings and 26th in the Team Rankings. They also posted their first win over a Big 12 team in program history, defeating host Texas
Christian University.

The Lady Flames (8-5, 5-1 in Coastal Collegiate Sports Association competition) set LaHaye Aquatics Center pool records in the 400 free relay, 100 IM (Kendall Hough) and 200 butterfly (Alicia Finnigan) and won 28 of 32 events in a weekend sweep of Campbell University (162-107 on Jan. 15) and UNC Asheville (166-132 on Jan. 16-17) for their sixth and seventh straight dual meet home victories.

Tae kwon do teams take second at Pan Am University Championships

Eighteen members of Liberty’s men’s and women’s tae kwon do teams comprised a tenth of the 180-athlete field at the Oct. 24-25 Pan American University Championships in West Point, N.Y., and both the Flames and Lady Flames placed second to the host United States Military Academy.

Jonathan Healy, one of Liberty’s two champions at last spring’s National Collegiate Taekwondo Association (NCTA) Championships, captured a gold medal in the men’s heavyweight black belt division. The sophomore from Houston studying in Liberty’s online program will now have the opportunity to represent the United States at the July 26-Aug. 11 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru.

Figure skaters set record at first Eastern Sectional

Sibylle Harter

Sibylle Harter

The Lady Flames’ figure skating team set a school record for most points at the first of three Eastern Sectional Intercollegiate competitions of the 2015-16 season, hosted by Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., on Nov. 21-22. Liberty’s eight competing skaters secured an eighth-place team showing (out of 25 teams) with 31.5 points, landing top-five finishes in every event they competed in and winning nine medals for top-three performances in individual and team maneuvers events.

Football eyes fifth-straight year of record season ticket sales

Flames Nation is growing and getting stronger, as evidenced by a fourth-consecutive season ticket sales record for Liberty University’s football team this past fall.

A Williams Stadium crowd of nearly 19,000 fans and Liberty Football’s first-ever national television audience witnessed the team cap its 2015 season on Nov. 19 with a thrilling 24-21 upset of Big South Conference rival Coastal Carolina, the nation’s No. 4-ranked Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team at the time. That win, aired on ESPNEWS on a Thursday night, clinched the Flames’ 10th-consecutive winning season and improved their home record to 5-0 in 2015, 50-10  since 2006.

“It was special because our fans were fantastic,” Liberty fourth-year Head Coach Turner Gill said. “They were great. They were there the whole time. That was a true ‘four quarters of fury.’ It was an exciting night and great for everybody in the country to see what our fans are about.”

Liberty ranked seventh in the nation among FCS schools in total attendance (94,950) and sixth in average home attendance (18,990), including a stadium-record 22,551 fans who watched the Flames upset No. 7 Montana, 31-21, on Sept. 19. Liberty also ranked eighth in filling stadium capacity (98.91 percent), a positive sign for future stadium expansion and a potential shift to Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) status.

“Our game day experience gets better every year, which shows the direction Coach Gill is leading our football program,” said Mike Minyard, Liberty’s associate athletics director for sales and promotions. “There’s a lot of excitement. Tailgating continues to grow, promoting a family-friendly environment. President Falwell sets the tone and really drives the dream of going FBS.”

Flames Football fans can get an early glimpse at what the 2016 team will look like at the annual Spring Game, set for 1 p.m. on April 16 at Williams Stadium. After opening the season with the first-ever matchup against ACC power Virginia Tech — Sept. 3 in Blacksburg, Va. — and facing Jacksonville University in its home opener on Sept. 10, Liberty will host 2015 FCS national runner-up Jacksonville State, one of four FCS programs with the longest streaks of winning seasons (13 straight since 2003).

Liberty will entertain Robert Morris on Oct. 1 before concluding its 2016 home schedule against three Big South Conference (BSC) opponents — Monmouth (Oct. 22), Gardner-Webb (Oct. 29), and defending BSC champion Charleston Southern (Nov. 12).

To reserve season tickets, contact the Flames Ticket Office at 434-582-SEAT (7328), email, or visit Renewal packages will be mailed to 2015 season ticket holders in mid-February.

To join the Flames Club and receive priority seating, parking, and other benefits, contact 434-582-CLUB (2582) or visit Fans are encouraged to purchase season tickets and join the Flames Club prior to the priority deadline of May 15.

Club Sports inducts second Hall of Fame class

Jeremy Kortright (left), Corey Walyuchow, and Dave Semenyna

Jeremy Kortright (left), Corey Walyuchow, and Dave Semenyna

Two player-coaches who helped grow Liberty University’s men’s hockey and lacrosse teams, as well as the Flames’ top scorer in hockey history, were honored Nov. 13 in the Hancock Welcome Center at the second annual Club Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

From 1994-98 Jeremy Kortright juggled his academic course load as a sport management major while he also handled the administrative and coaching duties of running Liberty’s men’s lacrosse team.

Corey Walyuchow took over men’s hockey coaching responsibilities in the 1994-95 season, when he also earned the Team MVP award as the Flames’ starting goalie.

Dave Semenyna established himself as a hardworking, offensive-minded defenseman and one of the best hockey players in the ACHA from 2006-10, netting 262 points and ranking first all-time for the Flames in both goals (102) and assists (160).

The new members’ plaques will be enshrined in the Club Sports Hall of Fame, in the LaHaye Ice Center.

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