January 26, 2022 : By Jacob Couch - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
At Tuesday’s Lynchburg City Council meeting, the Liberty University Field Hockey team was recognized for their 2021 season, when they made school history as the first-ever Flames NCAA team to make it to a national championship game.
“To have a program that just started 10 years ago and then makes it to the NCAA Division I final is unbelievable,” City Council Member and Liberty graduate Jeff Helgeson said as he formally addressed several team members and Head Coach Nikki Parsley-Blocker. “Dr. Falwell would be flipping in his boots because he always talked about Training Champions for Christ and these girls have excelled, and we want to thank you for what you’ve done for Lynchburg.”
Liberty lost to Northwestern 2-0 in the championship game in November. The game ended the team’s 17-game winning streak, the longest of any team in the country last season. The Lady Flames entered the championship as the nation’s top offense, averaging better than 3.5 goals per game.
“It just means a lot to us that they are extending the invitation to us to come down here,” Parsley-Blocker said about Tuesday’s honor. “I haven’t really thought about what (the national championship appearance) means to the city, but it is something that is for sure bigger than myself and the team, which is crazy to think about. It means something to maybe more people than you would expect.”
At 29, Parsley-Blocker became the youngest head coach in NCAA Division I field hockey history to coach in a championship game. It was also the first time that a former player competed against her former head coach in the title game; Parsley-Blocker played for Wildcats Head Coach Tracey Fuchs from 2010-13. Parsley-Blocker and her staff were named BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year and National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) South Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
“It’s kind of crazy for me to be recognized by my city,” added junior Jodie Conolly. “It feels a little unreal but at the same time, a lot of work goes into it so it’s a real honor to be asked here tonight and for (City Council) to be so excited and to talk about Liberty’s goals as a Christian school.”
Now, having graduated many of their leaders, including Jill Bolton, who was named the 2021 NFHCA Division I National Player of the Year, the Lady Flames will be looking to players such as Conolly to lead the way heading into next season.
After beginning spring practice last week, Conolly said she is encouraged by what she sees so far from the team.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, but it’s really exciting,” she said. “The harder we work, the more that we’ll come together and go after this new start.”