The Liberty field hockey team, which finished second in its inaugural season in the BIG EAST Conference in 2016, has unveiled its 2017 schedule.
Liberty field hockey will open regular-season play at home against James Madison on Aug. 26.
The Lady Flames will face five of the top 10 teams from last season's final National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) poll, including the 2016 national champion Delaware Blue Hens.
"Our 2017 schedule is packed with some of the very best competition in the country. One of our goals for the upcoming season is to make the NCAA Tournament, and I believe that this schedule will prepare us to do so," stated Liberty Field Hockey Head Coach Nikki Parsley. "Our tough out-of-conference opponents will also help to get us ready for a competitive BIG EAST schedule. I very much look forward to embarking on the 2017 season."
Liberty will play a pair of road exhibition contests against Commonwealth opponents Richmond (Aug. 15) and William & Mary (Aug. 19). The Lady Flames open the regular season vs. James Madison on Aug. 26 at the Liberty Field Hockey Field.
Liberty's first road contest will be against Michigan on Sept. 1 in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Wolverines finished No. 10 in the final NFHCA poll and No. 13 in the final NCAA RPI. The Lady Flames, who finished No. 25 in the NCAA RPI in 2016, will then travel to face in-state foe Longwood on Sept. 8.
Two days later on Sept. 10, 2016, Division I Field Championship title winner Delaware pays a visit to Lynchburg. Liberty's first BIG EAST match will be against Villanova on Sept. 16 at the Liberty Field Hockey Field. The Lady Flames defeated the Wildcats, 5-1, last season in Liberty's first-ever BIG EAST contest in Conshohocken, Pa.
On Sept. 17, Liberty and Mid-American Conference (MAC) member Kent State will square off for the first time. The Golden Eagles posted a 14-7 mark, last year and won the MAC to earn a spot in the NCAA Field Hockey Championship for a third straight season.
The Lady Flames will play a pair of road matches in the state of Connecticut on Sept. 22 (Quinnipiac) and Sept. 24 (Yale). Liberty will conclude the month of September with a home BIG EAST showdown versus Old Dominion, Sept. 29.
Parsley's squad will commence the month of October with a road matchup at No. 16 Wake Forest (Oct. 1), followed by road bouts at BIG EAST foe Georgetown (Oct. 6) in the nation's capital and a non-conference test at No. 2 Maryland (Oct. 8) in College Park, Md.
The middle of the month of October for Liberty will feature three straight home contests against 2016 BIG EAST Field Hockey Championship winner No. 6 Connecticut during Homecoming Weekend (Oct. 14), followed by an Oct. 20 matchup against Providence.
The Lady Flames will then host Duke, the No. 1 team in the final 2016 NFHCA poll, on Oct. 22 in what will be the fourth all-time meeting between the two programs. Liberty's final BIG EAST regular-season match will be at Temple, Oct. 27. Temple was the host school for the 2016 BIG EAST Field Hockey Championship.
The 2017 BIG EAST Field Hockey Championship will be contested at Providence in Providence, R.I. from Nov. 3-5. The winner of the tournament will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Liberty field hockey has advanced to the NCAA Field Hockey Championship twice in program history, when the Lady Flames won the NorPac Championship titles in both 2013 and 2014. Liberty won an NCAA Championship for the first time in 2014, a 3-1 victory over Richmond in Lynchburg.