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Johnson Announces Men's Tennis 2014 Spring Schedule
Liberty men's tennis head coach Chris Johnson has announced the Flames' schedule for the upcoming 2014 spring season. An early-season trip to face LSU and a showdown with defending national champion Virginia highlight Liberty's 2014 slate of opponents. The Flames will play 20 contests overall, including 11 road matches, six home tilts and three neutral site contests.
Johnson, entering his eighth year at the helm of the program, returns all but one player from last season's squad which finished 11-11 overall and 3-5 in Big South Conference matches. "We came into this year with some big goals," commented Johnson. "Goals that included having nationally ranked players and a nationally ranked team. Our fall schedule put our players in a position that if they played well they could achieve this. Our spring schedule does the same for our team."
The Flames open the season with six consecutive contests away from Lynchburg. Liberty will open the season on Jan. 18 against Morehead State in a neutral site match at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.
After a 19-day layoff, Liberty returns to action with a trip to face William & Mary on Feb. 6. Last season, The Tribe advanced to the CAA title match and finished ranked No. 7 in the ITA's Atlantic Region.
On Feb. 8, the Flames face the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge, La. The Tigers advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season and concluded the year ranked No. 22 in the nation. The contest against LSU will be the first of two matches for Liberty against teams which finished the 2013 season ranked in the top 25.
Beginning on Feb. 14, the Flames will play three matches in three days in Portland, Ore. Liberty opens its Pacific Northwest trip with a match versus Lewis & Clark, before meeting WCC member Portland and Seattle University of the WAC. Portland earned a No. 9 final ranking in the ITA's Northwest Region last season.
Liberty will play its first two home matches of the season, beginning on Feb. 21 against Morgan State. The Flames then welcome Richmond to Liberty Mountain for a Feb. 28 contest. Last season, the Spiders received a No. 10 final ranking in the ITA's Atlantic Region.
Liberty returns to the road for five consecutive contests. The Flames make the short trip north to challenge defending national champion and No. 1 ranked Virginia on March 2. This marks the first time a Flames men's tennis squad has the preseason No. 1 ranked team in the country on its schedule.
The Flames' next three matches will take place in South Carolina, as the squad will take on Coker on March 8 and James Madison on March 13 in Hilton Head. Liberty opens the Big South portion of its schedule versus Presbyterian College on March 15. A tilt at N.C. Central on March 20 concludes Liberty's five-match road swing.
Liberty's final seven contests of the regular season will come against Big South opponents. The Flames face Winthrop on March 22 in their first home conference match of the season, before heading back on the road to challenge Longwood the following day.
Beginning on March 28 against UNC Asheville, Liberty will play three consecutive home matches, its longest homestand of the season. The Flames close the month of March with a contest versus Gardner-Webb on the 30th. On April 4, Liberty welcomes Radford to the Hershey-Esbenshade Tennis Courts.
The Flames wrap up their regular-season slate on the road at defending Big South champion Coastal Carolina (April 9) and Campbell (April 10).
The 2014 Big South Men's Tennis Championship will be hosted by Gardner-Webb in Boiling Springs, N.C. The tournament will run from April 15-18.
"With several regionally and nationally ranked teams, this is surely the toughest schedule we have ever put together," stated Johnson. "At the end of the day all you can ask for is that if you play well you get rewarded, and hopefully this schedule does exactly that."