It’s been a busy “silly season” as coaches are fired and hired in and around colleges and within some school hockey programs.
There have been some retirements and major hires, all of which could make an impact on the U.S. field hockey scene before too long.
But if there was one move that caught my eye, it was the departure of Jodi Murphy as the head coach at Liberty University.
Liberty University’s field hockey program has been only around for six seasons, but has built itself smartly. Murphy and her coaching staff were able to attract considerable talent to Lynchburg, and were able to merge foreign talent with Americans who benefitted from this decade’s scoring boom. A prime example is Summer Parker, who was a 50-goal scorer for Suffolk Lakeland (Va.).
The resulting team punched above its weight when it comes to competing against the very best in NCAA Division I. The Flames’ finest moment in this regard took place in November of 2014, when, in a NCAA octofinal game, they put a scare into then-No. 1 North Carolina before bowing 2-1.
The next year, Liberty would continue to be the team that nobody wanted to face in a one-and-done situation. The Flames were transitioning out of the NorPac, headed for the Big East in 2016, and had loaded its schedule with Big East and national powers. The result was a 12-6 record which could have been so much more.
The 2015 Flames lost four one-goal matches (Louisville, Virginia, Duke, Boston College) to teams which were ranked 11th or higher in the polls at the time of their meeting. Had Liberty been able to flip one or two of these in their favor, the team might have been able to snare an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but its Ratings Percentage Index fell achingly short.
In 2016, the team went 8-10 on the season, but still played the best teams tough. They took defending national championship Syracuse to overtime on Labor Day weekend, falling 3-2. Their next three games against ranked opponents (Virginia, Old Dominion, American) were all one-goal games.
The Flames eventually finished its season with a one-goal loss to Connecticut, a team which made the Final Four. And it turned out to be Jodi Murphy’s last game in charge.
I think the one thing I noticed about the Liberty news release announcing her resignation was the fact that she was pursuing an opportunity outside of coaching.
That’s a shame, because it would have been extremely interesting to see what kind of work the team would have done if she had a chance to continue.