Flame burns bright for Gipe in first collegiate field hockey season
How do you go from being the big fish in a small pond to being the small fish in a big pond?
Just fine if you’re Sarah Gipe playing field hockey at Liberty University.
Taking that step from high school sports star to the collegiate level can be daunting, but the Greencastle-Antrim High School product has parlayed the journey into the second highest scorer for the Lynchburg, Va. Flames, a NorPac East Division title and individual conference honors as Rookie of the Year.
"Playing for Liberty has been so much fun!" said Gipe. "My teammates are like my new sisters and best friends because we are with each other all of the time. We push each other every day in practice, which has made us stronger individually and as a team."
Gipe had lots of credentials going into the Division I program. A four-year starter, she was the MVP for three years in high school. She led the Blue Devils in scoring each year and helped the Blue Devils qualify for the District 3 Class AA tournament in 2009, for the first time in 14 years. The Blue Devils also earned a Colonial Division Championship in 2010. She completed her high school career with 45 goals and 49 assists.
The former Blue Devil made an impact from the start. Liberty was in just its first Division I competitive year and second year overall. Gipe had gotten her name in the record books already. Her 13 goals this season were second on the squad. She added two assists. Gipe started in 21 of the 22 games and helped the Flames to the NorPac East Division title in its first year in the conference. Liberty advanced to the NorPac Conference Championship game, falling to Stanford for the automatic berth to the NCAA Division I Championships. Gipe had two shots on goal in that title game. The Flames knocked off Pacific and Davidson to earn the shot at Stanford, capping a head-turning first-year effort in the sport.
Gipe said, "Being on such a close team has pushed me to look for ways to lift up my teammates in small ways. We also depend on each other for support, both on and off the field. Being in such a competitive environment has really pushed me to sharpen my skills while pushing my teammates."
Along the way Gipe earned the NorPac Offensive Play of the Week Sept. 25. The freshman scored in all three of Liberty’s games that week, including two against LaSalle and the one goal in a 3-1 loss to Longwood. Gipe delivered four game-winning goals this season for the Flames and had three multiple-goal games.. She sits in the top 10 in the NorPac in numerous offensive categories, including shots (37), shots per game (1.95), points (28), points per game (1.47), goals (13) and goals per game (0.68).
The next level
Gipe noted the differences between high school hockey and college hockey. "One of the major differences is pre-game preparation," she said.
"We spend numerous hours watching film from other teams and ourselves before a game. Even though this is highly different from high school, I love this part of college hockey! It has really made me feel like a student of the game. Another difference is the traveling. We do not travel too far; however, our season is highlighted with trips to Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Missouri. I love traveling and these trips really help our team become more united."
Gipe has obviously thrived in the face of a new environment and new challenges during her initial collegiate season, but with a stable motivation, "Since Liberty is a Christian school and my teammates and I love the Lord, we do everything on the field through Him and for Him. We strive to do our best, not for our own glory, but for His."