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The Lady Flames tennis season has been a tale of two halves. Fans that followed tennis prior to spring break would have barely recognized the team of girls that took to the courts Friday in their 4-3 victory over the visiting Campbell Fighting Camels.
Prior to spring break the Lady Flames had only managed a 1-9 record, but since the break the team has pulled off a near-miraculous string of victories, going 9-1 and hitting the .500 mark with just three matches left in the season.
“We’ve been talking over the last several weeks about courage and what it takes to overcome the fears that come with what we do,” head coach Chris Johnson said. “We started in the book of Psalms with David, and we learned about the humility he had before the Lord and how it correlates with bringing courage to the court. I was just really proud of them because, obviously, we had a tough start and now we’ve won nine out of 10, so it’s pretty obvious that we’ve really achieved the humility and the courage that it takes to overcome the fears.”
The team traveled together over spring break down to Florida and played several non-conference matches that put them back on track.
“We had such a rough beginning of our season and over spring break we worked a lot of things out,” sophomore Rebekah Jenkins said. “We just decided, ‘You know what? We’re not going to be defeated and I’m going to step up and win some matches because I put Liberty on my back.’ I think I represent something way more awesome than all these girls (opponents) out here.”
Jenkins wore her Liberty blue proudly against Campbell, claiming two victories and scoring two of Liberty’s four points. Jenkins and her partner, sophomore Alexandra Sheeran, won the deciding doubles match 8-6 to put the Flames on the scoreboard first. She continued her winning ways in the singles round, claiming a 2-0 victory (6-4, 6-1) over Campbell’s Katya Yegoreychenko.
“When we overcame some things in doubles and came up with that doubles’ point it really put us in the driver’s seat with this match, and that’s one of the things that we talked about in between doubles and singles,” Johnson said.
Jenkins match tied the overall team score at two. Campbell went on to claim the fifth singles match to go up 3-2, but that was the last of Campbell’s wins as Liberty sophomore Cameron Richard and freshman Nicola Wellman each defeated their opponents to seal the sixth straight win for Liberty.
Nicola Wellman, whose match finished last and thus became the deciding factor in the final score, played the last set of her match with all eyes on her court.
“I love when I’m the last one on because I just feel so confident,” Wellman said. “I was already up a set. Even though I was kind of down the whole second set and was getting really tired and wasn’t really playing my game, I knew this was up to me. I knew I could pull this out.”
After evening their record at 10-10, the Lady Flames will look to finish the season with a winning record and make some noise in the Big South Tournament. Johnson has high hopes for what his team can do down the stretch.
“We’ve really turned it around, and when we get to the tournament people are going to see the results and that we came to play,” Johnson said.
The Flames will host their final conference match against the University of North Carolina, Asheville April 6.