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Liberty University men’s tennis team opened up its season with a decisive 7-0 win over Bluefield State but could not quite put the pieces together against the University of Richmond Spiders Friday, losing 6-1. On Saturday the Flames reestablished home-court advantage, downing Averett 7-0.
“Our intensity needs to be better,” coach Chris Johnson said. “We came out flat, and they came out with a lot of intensity, which allowed them to jump out in front, and we were not able to recover.”
Richmond had five matches under its belt entering the contest, while the Flames only had one previous match.
“They were more match-tough,” Johnson said of Richmond. “We did not close matches well tonight and they did.”
Muscle cramps were a constant problem all evening for the Flames that they just could not overcome in the end.
“I just hit a wall there in the second set,” sophomore Shea Thomas said.
Richmond junior Jesse Feder saw Thomas in obvious discomfort and took advantage. He made Thomas move side to side to return shots, and it eventually wore down the gutsy sophomore.
“I just was not able to keep up,” Thomas said. Feder defeated Thomas in three sets, 2-6, 6-3, 6-1.
The lone point winner for the Flames was junior Siim Tuus, who put together a gritty performance and was able to upend Richmond’s Ethan Dunbar in three sets, 6-1, 6-7, 7-5.
Tuus began the match firing on all cylinders but could not keep it up in the second set.
“I was mentally out of it in the second set,” Tuus said. “In the first set everything was very easy, and I did not stay focused mentally in the second set.”
Losing the second set made things difficult for Tuus and allowed a window of opportunity for Dunbar, but the crafty Estonian made sure that window was shut in the third set.
“I never thought I was going to lose,” Tuus said. “That thought never went through my mind.”
Tuus kept Dunbar on his heels the entire match with his blistering serves and fierce backhand returns.
Tuus said he will be better prepared for the rest of the season mentally.
“I need to be focused from the first point to the last point, and I will be,” he said.
Fresh off a victory against Bluefield State that made him Liberty’s all-time doubles player, senior Giancarlo Lemmi recorded yet another doubles victory, the 65th of his career. Lemmi partnered with freshman Wayne Harrell to win 8-3 over Richmond freshman Paul Nahon III and Dunbar in the No. 3 doubles match. The Flames duo played fast and painted the corners of the court with their shots.
Saturday, the Flames took on Averett University and scored wins in doubles and singles events.
Tuus, Tristan Stayt, Lemmi and Dillon Segur secured the doubles events while Matt Slamecka and Stanislav Vaughn notched singles wins, pushing the Flames to an overall 2-1 record.
The Flames will go on a 10-match road trip before returning home March 18 to host the Gardner-Webb University Runnin’ Bulldogs.