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‘This is them on fire’: Liberty field hockey dominates in 5-1 victory vs. Westminster

WOODBINE — Brenda Strohmer turned to her players on the sideline, during a brief pause in the action, to let them know what she thought of Liberty’s performance in the first half Wednesday against Westminster.

“This is them on fire,” the Lions coach said to her field hockey reserves.

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It was barely hyperbole ― Liberty set an aggressive tempo from the opening whistle and scored five times in the first half en route to a 5-1 victory in a matchup of two state champions from the 2019 season.

Caitlynn Szarko had two goals and an assist, Jenna Evans added a pair of assists, and the Lions improved 6-0 by winning their 33rd consecutive game. They led 3-0 after the first quarter, then scored two more times in the second quarter in response to Westminster’s lone tally of the day.

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Liberty beat South Carroll 3-0 on Monday, but Strohmer and her players said they weren’t satisfied with their overall effort. Things were different Wednesday at Western Regional Park.

“I was a little concerned, but they came out on fire. They came out clicking,” Strohmer said. “And you see it. That’s them playing the way they know how to play.”

Liberty's Jenna Evans and Westminster's Miranda Moshang vie for control of the ball in the second half of the Lions' win in Woodbine Wednesday, March 24, 2021.
Liberty's Jenna Evans and Westminster's Miranda Moshang vie for control of the ball in the second half of the Lions' win in Woodbine Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (Dylan Slagle)

Kirby Henneman scored in the second quarter to give Westminster its offense and cut Liberty’s deficit to 3-1. But the reigning Class 1A state champs answered with a penalty-corner goal from Maggie Heffler and Szarko’s second score of the game, a nifty strike from near the top of the circle that came from the back of her stick and soared into the net.

Ally Pond and Kayleigh Ward also had goals for Liberty.

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“I think we were just fired up after [the] Monday game,” Szarko said. “We just weren’t playing that well. We weren’t us. Westminster’s a tough team ... we knew we had to come in and show them that we’re still the state championship team that we were last year.”

The Owls (1-2) are also fresh off a state championship, having won the 3A title in 2019. But they’re a team playing catch-up right now because of COVID-19 issues, and coach Laurie Naill said Westminster is still working on cohesion and fundamentals.

“I think today we beat ourselves,” Naill said. “[The Lions are] a fast team, I knew they were fast. But literally we’ve had a week of practice on the fields. So we’re just getting back into the swing of things.”

Megan Watkins collected five saves for the Owls, and Miranda Moshang had two defensive saves along the back line as well. Julia Rogalski assisted on Henneman’s goal.

Westminster and Liberty are scheduled to meet again March 31, and if the Lions win it will be Strohmer’s 100th career victory.

Wednesday’s performance might rank among some of the best Szarko said she has seen at Liberty.

“That was so good to see, and I know we need to keep it up for the next couple of weeks,” she said.

Goals: L-Caitlynn Szarko 2, Ally Pond, Kayleigh Ward, Maggie Heffler; W-Kirby Henneman

Assists: L-Jenna Evans 2, Szarko; W-Julia Rogalski

Saves: L-2 (Emma Meissner); W-5 (Megan Watkins)

Halftime: Liberty, 5-1

JV result: Westminster, 4-0

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