LYNCHBURG, Va. – Jordan O’Reilly scored her third goal of the season, but top-seeded Liberty was able to claim the 3-1 victory in the NorPac Tournament quarterfinal Thursday morning at Liberty Field Hockey Field in Lynchburg. The Bears (6-12) will take on Radford (5-15) in Friday’s consolation bracket at 8 a.m. (PT).
O’Reilly cut a 2-0 deficit in half just three minutes into the second half, but Cal was not able to find an equalizer and fell 3-1 after Liberty scored on an open cage with one second remaining while the Golden Bears pressed for a score after pulling goalkeeper Courtney Hendrickson in the final five minutes.
“It was a good game and pretty evenly matched in the midfield,” California head coach Shellie Onstead said. “They scored two early ones, which got us on our heels. We battled really well. At halftime I knew if we got corners we could make goals. I was confident at that point.”
The Flames snuck the first goal of the game in in the 15th minute when Jordan Richardson paced down the left side of the field and slotted it into the corner of the cage past an outstretched Hendrickson. A penalty corner 10 minutes later by the Bears saw Lara Kruggel’s shot get deflected away from danger, and Liberty responded with a corner of their own that was saved and then cleared by Michaela Swensen.
Liberty would add its second goal in the 28th minute after Sarah Gipe poked in a goal from close range after another penalty corner.
With the Flames ahead 2-0 at halftime, California was able to cut the lead in half with O’Reilly’s goal at 38:38. The Flames then used an advantage midway through the period with a string of seven penalty corners in six minutes – including four consecutive in a two minute span – that was met by a blanket protection from Cal to keep the score within reach at 2-1.
“The fact that we weathered the stand and didn’t give a goal was epic for our team,” Onstead said. “We called a timeout right after and I told them that they kept us in this game right there. Someone should have scored by anyone’s estimation, but we did a good job during that.”
The Bears pulled Hendrickson from goal in the 66th minute to attempt a comeback, but the team could not get a good look on the cage as Liberty pulled out the victory.
“Pulling Courtney and getting that extra attacker got the effect we wanted,” Onstead said. “We had them under pressure. It reminded me back to our game against Northwestern when we scored with no time left. We were in it until the end.”
California and Radford did not meet in the regular season. Radford was the third-seeded team in the NorPac East Division after finishing the year with a 3-5 conference record. The Highlanders dropped a 2-0 decision to UC Davis earlier Thursday.
“It’s important to go home with a win,” Onstead said. “We need to refocus. It was good to have more ability to rest the strikers.”