Liberty beats Providence at Howarth Field in Big East semis

Liberty University defeated Providence College, 1-0, in the first round of the Big East tournament on Friday at Howarth Field.

With 6:55 left in the game, Liberty University midfielder Bethany Barr curved a goal in which gave Liberty a one-goal lead over Providence College.

It was the only goal either team would score all game as Liberty advanced to the Big East Conference championship game in its first year in the league with a 1-0 victory at Howarth Field on Friday night. Liberty will play top seeded Connecticut on Sunday in the championship game at Howarth Field.

Liberty (7-9, 5-2 Big East) was the No. 2 seed coming into the tournament playing No. 3 Providence (13-5, 5-2 Big East). The two squads played on Oct. 21st when Liberty won 2-1, so the teams expected another close game on Friday.

Liberty got off to a fast start in the first half. Within the first five minutes of play Liberty had two shots on goal, but Providence’s first team All-Big East goalie Megan Guilbert was up to the challenge. Guilbert stopped both goals and then went on to get four saves in the first eight minutes of play.

“We like to play at a speed, a high tempo,” Liberty coach Jodi Murphy said.  “It was something that we knew we wanted to start off with but the game kind of to seem to keep that pace.”

Even with Guilbert making diving saves, Liberty continued to attack Providence with a trapping defense and a fast moving offense. They ended up forcing Providence’s defense into mistakes as a result.  First team All-Big East performers back Serena Barr and midfielder Agueda Moroni were at the head of this consistent pressure.    

In the first half, Liberty had five penalty corners and seven shots on goal with this style. On the other end Providence had no penalty corners and only one shot on goal. Still, with Guilbert stopping every shot Liberty slapped her way, Providence remained in the game and the score was tied 0-0 at halftime.

“I thought their goalkeeper has had an exceptional season and today was just another great performance by her,” Murphy said. “She’s a really good goalkeeper and she should be proud of the game that she’s played and the season’s she’s had.”

The game slowed down in the second half and neither team was really able to gain momentum.  This worked out more to Providence’s favor and the game began to even out.  

In the second half, Providence had four shots on goal and had three penalty corners. Liberty had only two shots on goal and four penalty corners.

Liberty now faces UConn, which  beat Temple, 8-1, earlier in the day.

“UConn is a very solid sound team across all levels,” Murphy stated, “They have a ton of great players and a lot of threatening goal scorers.  I think we’ll be able to give them a really good game and win our first Big East Championship.”

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