The Liberty University Flames have never advanced to an ACHA women’s final. That streak appears to be in danger based on their play this season.
Liberty has ascended to the top of the women’s rankings thanks, in part, to winning 10 of their first 11 games. Currently, the Flames boast an impressive 14-5-1 record as the first semester draws to a close.
In addition to a season-opening sweep over annual power Robert Morris (IL), the Flames earned a split against Michigan State, the defending National Champions. In fact, Liberty narrowly missed a sweep of the defending champion Spartans as they dropped a 3-1 decision on Saturday, October 23. That was the first loss of the season for Liberty.
Our team’s hot start was fantastic,” Amanda Grainger said. “It was really exciting to pull out a win against the top teams such as Michigan State and Robert Morris.”
Grainger is a major part of the early success the Flames have enjoyed. She, along with teammate Sarah Stevenson have been lighting up the score sheet all season. Grainger and Stevenson are tied for sixth nationally in scoring with 28 points. Grainger has 16 goals and 12 assists, while her teammate sports the reverse statistics (12+16).
“[Amanda and Sarah] are good workers,“ head coach Paul Bloomfield said. “We don’t really have any superstars; everyone is just doing their thing.”
Bloomfield praised both players for their tenacity and work ethic as their points continue to skyrocket. He was sure to point out Grainger’s diminutive stature (4’11”) and her everlasting motor as part of her success. He was sure to point out that the Flames aren’t a two-woman show.
“It’s not just one or two girls,” he said. “There are a lot of girls setting them up. We’ve got great chemistry and everyone is playing together.”
Indeed Grainger and Stevenson aren’t alone atop the national scoring leaders. Stacey Christians sits only one point behind the pair with 13 goals and 14 assists on the season. Liberty’s high-octane attack has given them a great boost thus far, yet Bloomfield has pointed to other factors for why his team has enjoyed so much success.
“I think we have much better goaltending this year,” he noted. “We lost a few games last year because of one or two goals and that’s mainly because of goaltending.”
Chantal Lischynski and Samantha Rupp have been outstanding for the Flames this season. Both sport a sub-3.00 goals against average (2.40 and 2.25, respectively) and each have a sterling .910 save percentage.
Lischynski has two more starts than Rupp, but the negligible difference reflects the approach Bloomfield has taken regarding his goalies. Bloomfield said the success both have enjoyed has made his job easier in that he is able to rotate both without needing a true starter.
Liberty’s two-headed goaltending duo compliment’s their dangerous offense well. Their stellar defense is yielding fewer than three goals per game while they have had no trouble filling the net. Four players have over 10 goals and there are six players who are on a point-per-game clip through 18 contests.
Based on the big numbers Liberty has already posted, the rest of the W1 ranks will be well aware as the National Tournament nears. While the Flames have yet to see the title game, they have already shown they have what it takes to knock off the nation’s best.