LEXINGTON, Va. – In a tightly contested match, the Liberty Lady Flames scored once in each half and went on to defeat the VMI Keydets, 2-0, in Big South women’s soccer action Thursday at Patchin Field. The game marked the season’s home finale for VMI, as before the game, VMI’s senior class – Taylor Armstrong, Christelle Ndongo, Kacey Hall and Simone Jimenez - was honored in an on-field ceremony.
After an early midfield exchange that led to just one shot over the first 15:58, Liberty’s (11-6-1, 5-3-1 Big South) Rebecca Smith went after a ball deep in VMI territory in the 16th minute. VMI (1-14, 0-9 BSC) goalkeeper Mackenzie Harrmann came out to play the ball, but Smith won the scrum, got free and beat Harrmann with a shot to her left to put Liberty up, 1-0.
The Keydets would benefit from eight offside violations by Liberty in the opening half, but the Lady Flames added an insurance goal in the 50th minute. Dawn Elmers found Helena Pereira in stride, cutting between two Keydet defenders, and Pereira took several long dribbles before beating Harrmann from 12 yards out, giving the visitors a 2-0 lead they would not relinquish. VMI would have two second-half shots on goal, but could not find the back of the net in the setback.
"I felt that the match this afternoon was potentially our best match collectively over the season,” said VMI head coach Bryan Williams. “I am extremely proud of the way my group handled a very good Liberty team, and was impressed by the tremendous effort of our two senior captains, Kacey Hall and Simone Jimenez, who led our play with strong effort, enthusiasm and skill. It was a fun match for me to watch as well as for those who were here. I felt that we played a very disciplined defensive match, catching them for 15 offside violations, as well as creating a number of chances in both halves from an offensive perspective to challenge their goalkeeper. This game absolutely showed the potential of our freshmen and sophomores for the future of the program over the next several years."
After Smith’s goal in the 16th minute, Liberty tested Harrmann again in the 19th, but the freshmen turned aside Rebekah Page to keep the score 1-0. The visitors had another chance in the 25th minute, but after a corner kick, the Lady Flames could not settle the ball well. Elmers sent a shot toward Harrmann, but could not direct the ball and it went off the crossbar and bounded away.
The Keydets then had perhaps their best chance in the 29th minute. After patiently working the ball into the box, VMI played the ball out to Kacey Hall, who drilled an open shot from 15 yards away. The try went wide left, however, and the margin remained 1-0. VMI had another chance at 30:01 when Liz Affronti found space, but her shot from 25 yards out was grabbed by Liberty keeper Karen Blocker.
Liberty would counter in the 31st minute, when its leading scorer, Jamie Bouffard, got free around a Keydet defender and worked into a 1 v 1 with Harrmann. Bouffard’s shot from eight yards out sailed high, however, and the margin remained 1-0.
That would be the score going into the half, a half that saw not only Liberty’s eight offside violations, but also was constrained to just a combined nine shots between the two teams. Both teams had two corner kicks as well in the evenly played first period.
The visitors struck quickly in the second half, as the first shot of the period was Pereira’s 50th minute goal that gave the Lady Flames a 2-0 cushion. Harrmann, however, came back with a save in the 54th minute and from there, the match settled down a bit. There were just three shots over the next 22-plus minutes, with one of them being a Meredith Baldasare try that was blocked at 60:51.
The match’s next shot on goal came at 75:43, when Harrmann stopped Megan Warner. She then turned aside Ariana Espinoza as well, doing so in the 78th minute, to keep the score 2-0.
VMI came back in the 83rd minute, when Jimenez put a low skimmer of a shot on net, but Blocker was there for the save at the near post. Liberty would then counterattack in the 85th minute, nearly scoring on a rebound, but the goal was waved off due to an offside violation, Liberty’s 15th of the match.
Blocker would stop Affronti in the final minute to wrap up the match, and preserve Liberty’s 2-0 victory.
Harrmann was credited with six saves in the match, while Blocker stopped three shots for Liberty. The visitors had 15 shots to six for VMI, while the Lady Flames also managed a 4-3 edge in corner kicks. With Thursday’s result, Liberty and VMI have now played six times since the 2007 season, splitting those six matches with three wins apiece.
VMI women’s soccer will return to action Saturday, traveling to Farmville, Va. to take on Longwood. Game time is set for 6 p.m.