Lady Monarchs Defeated 3-1 in Big East Title Game; Miss Out on NCAA Tournament for Third Straight Year

Benjamin Draper, Sports Editor

With 19.1 seconds left in the game, Old Dominion’s field hockey season met a swift end as the Liberty Flames 12-7 (6-1 Big East) netted in the empty-net goal to seal the 3-1 Big East championship victory. The Lady Monarchs 15-3 (6-1 Big East) rode into Sunday on a ten-game winning streak, but those winning ways would not go further and because of the defeat, they were not chosen to participate in the NCAA tournament. 

Freshman forward Sacha de Gier eagerly prepares for the matchup against Liberty. (Elena Harris )

Hours after the match, the ODU squad gathered in a room and watched the NCAA Tournament selection show where they would meet their fate. There were eight at-large bids up for grabs, but the Lady Monarchs were overshadowed by the Power 5 conferences like the ACC and Big Ten. After the selection results, head coach Andrew Griffiths’s consoled his team.

“There’s not a lot I can say that’s going to make you feel any better,” he stated. “We did everything we could. I feel like we’ve been shortchanged and I’m sure you do, too. We’ve been shortchanged the last three years.”

It was a packed house at L.R Sports Hill Complex, with almost 600 people in attendance. The ODU Baseball team made their presence heard as they rooted for the Lady Monarchs. Many ODU officials and head coaches were in attendance as well to support their companions. The Flames got things going early in the match as senior Daniella Rhodes scored a goal in the first 94 seconds of the contest, giving Liberty the 1-0 advantage. The game would then slow down and find its pace as both teams went up and down the field, but with not much action to show for it. Each team accounted for two shots apiece in the first quarter as the Flames held their 1-0 lead. 

In the second quarter, there was only one shot on goal which came from the Liberty attack. The Lady Monarchs weren’t able to convert any of their penalty corners in the first half and the score remained 1-0 going into the break. Coming out of halftime, the ODU offensive pressure began to take shape as they started to push through the Flames’ defense and get shots at the goal. In the first half, the game was mostly in ODU’s defensive zone, but it was the opposite in the second half as they managed to get four shots on the goal. The Lady Monarchs had two more penalty opportunities, but they failed to convert them and the score remained 1-0 going into the final frame. 

The Lady Monarchs celebrate after tying the game 1-1 in the fourth period. (Elena Harris )

The match was neck-and-neck and could’ve gone either way, but the ODU offense continued their heavy pressure on the Flames’ defense. With ten minutes left in the fourth period, freshman Sanci Molkenboer wound up with the ball. She moved to her left and fired a shot past the Liberty goalkeeper to tie the game at 1-1. She was assisted by sophomore Frederiuque Zanderbergen. With the goal, L.R. Sports Complex went into an uproar because it was now anyone’s game to win. Old Dominion had several opportunities to take the lead, including two shots from senior Marlon de Bruijine, but they went wide. As tensions mounted, the Flames’ found the back of the net again off a rebound from graduate goalkeeper Cam MacGillivary to regain the lead. Senior Bethany Dykema was there to fire the ball in the cage after the stick save from MacGillivary with only 6:41 left to play. 

Time was not in ODU’s favor anymore as they needed to score a goal to tie the game at least. With 2:12 left in the match, Griffiths would make the decision to pull MacGillivary to add the extra attacker. The Liberty defense stood its ground and prevented any chance for a tie. Sophomore forward Martu Cian found herself with a breakaway and scored the empty-net goal to seal the deal for the Lady Monarchs. The match would end in a 3-1 defeat for ODU as the Flames’ players swarmed their goalkeeper and dogpiled in celebration. 

A distraught junior Marlon de Bruijne is consoled after the defeat. (Elena Harris )

ODU outshot Liberty 12-8 and had eight penalty corners to Liberty’s three, but the Monarchs failed to score on any of the penalty corners. The Lady Monarchs finish their season at 15-3 and that alone is something to be proud of. After the game, Griffiths talked about the energy from the crowd and reiterated that this team deserved a shot at the big tournament. “The crowd tonight was great. We couldn’t have had a better atmosphere,” Griffiths mentioned. “We’re still a young team, but this team, this year, was a very special team. They deserved a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.”

Next up for this field hockey program is the offseason, where they can regroup and prepare for the next season. Although this is not the ending they wanted, the future is looking bright for the Lady Monarchs. Although they will lose their Big East defensive player of the year in  MacGillivary, eight of their 11 starters will return itching to get further next time around.