Feb 5, 2008

Reyes leads Flames to victory, Lady Flames suffer setback

by Adam Trent
The Liberty men’s tennis team captured a big win this past weekend against the University of Richmond Spiders indoors at the Sports Racket while the women went on the road and lost a competitive match against West Virginia University of the Big East. The Lady Flames, after posting their best fall season ever, began the season by traveling to regional power West Virginia on Friday to take on the Mountaineers. Liberty got things started with a bang as freshman Jordan Jenkins and junior Ekaterina Kuznetsova took the No. 1 doubles match, 8-2. Freshman Stephanie Brown and senior Martyna Hanusz took an 8-4 decision at No. 2 doubles to give Liberty the doubles point. Unfortunately, youth and inexperience caught up to the Lady Flames in singles. The more experienced Mountaineers took five of six singles matches to claim a 5-2 victory over Liberty. Jenkins was the lone winner in singles, taking down senior Stacey Percival 5-7, 6-4, 6-1. Freshmen Brown and Hannah Fick fought hard at the number three and five positions, respectively, but both lost 6-4, 6-3 decisions to their veteran West Virginia opponents. “I think we really surprised them when we won the doubles point so easily. The surprise was over when we moved to singles,” Head Coach Chris Johnson said. “They came out ready to play hard and took an early lead in most of the matches. We never really recovered from that. Jordan Jenkins continued to impress as she took down a very good No. 1 senior player for West Virginia.” Despite the setback, the young Lady Flames look to use it as a learning experience to give them a successful season. “We had the best recruiting class ever in the history of Liberty womens tennis last fall,” Johnson said. “The whole team comes every day to work hard in practice, and we are very focused on our goals,” he said. “West Virginia is a tough team to start the season but gave us so much to work on as we move forward. Although our team is still very young, I am excited to watch their progress as we move through this season.” On Saturday night, the men hosted in-state rival Richmond indoors at the Sports Racket. The Spiders have been a tough opponent in the history of Flames tennis, and this year would be no exception. Richmond started the match by winning at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles to take the doubles point. Sophomore Chad Simpson and junior Jaroslav Trojan provided the lone win for the Flames as they took down Chris Louis and Dave Berry, 8-2, at the No. 1 position. Down but not out, the Flames rallied to take four singles matches to win 4-3. Simpson gave Liberty its first point at the No. 1 singles position by defeating Doug Banker 6-4, 6-4. The Spiders responded with a 6-1, 6-2 decision over sophomore Rafael Riso. Senior and team captain Sebastian Pena gave Liberty its second win of the night, defeating Chris Louis 6-2, 7-6(4) at the No. 2 position. Richmond’s Michael Sommer won 7-5, 7-5 over Trojan at the No. 3 spot while Liberty freshman Leandro Schujmann defeated Sami Belakhlef 7-5, 7-5 at the No. 4 position to knot the match 3-3. With the match to be decided at No. 6 singles, 5-foot-6 sophomore Juan Reyes calmly defeated 6-foot-11 senior Drew Crank of Richmond, 6-2, 6-3 to give the Flames a 4-3 win over the Spiders. “Last year we lost 6-1 to Richmond. This year we were able to pull out the victory despite one of our top players being out with an injury,” said Johnson. “I think that it really shows how far this team has come in one year and the type of commitment we possess to achieving our goals. Last year we had five freshmen and no seniors. This year our guys are much more experienced and confident. It was great to see the improvements we have made in practice translate into the match,” he said. Both teams return to action on Wednesday with a match at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C. Contact Adam Trent at jatrent@liberty.edu.
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