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Flames Set for a Trio of Matches in the Pacific Northwest
The Liberty men's tennis team concludes its five-match road swing this weekend with three matches in Portland, Ore. The Flames challenge Lewis & Clark on Friday at 6 p.m. (EST), before playing Portland on Saturday at 4 p.m. (EST) and Seattle on Sunday at 1 p.m. (EST).
Liberty (2-2) looks to rebound from back-to-back losses last week. The Flames went on the road and lost at William & Mary, 5-2, and at No. 27 LSU, 7-0. The loss to the Tigers was the first time since the 2011 season that Liberty was shut out in a contest.
So far this season, the Flames are 1-2 in neutral site or road matches. Liberty opened the year with a neutral site win over Morehead State on Jan. 18. The Flames have never faced any of the three teams which they will face this weekend.
Through the first four matches of the year, Liberty is 11-13 in singles matches and 5-5 in doubles tilts. Top singles player Shea Thomas leads the way for the Flames with a 3-1 record, while sophomore Egon Samaai also has a combined 3-1 mark at the No. 3 and No. 4 positions.
In doubles play, Thomas and Jorge Azuero pace the Flames with a 2-1 record, with their only loss coming to No. 60 Chad Simpson and Boris Arias of LSU. In the latest ITA national rankings, Thomas and Azuero climbed into the top 20 at No. 19. No Liberty or Big South player has ever been ranked inside the top 20 in singles or doubles.
Friday's contest against Liberty will serve as the season opener for Lewis & Clark. The Division II school posted 7-10 overall record a year ago, including a 3-5 home mark. The Pioneers feature a young roster with no seniors on the squad and six of their nine players either freshman or sophomores. Sophomore Daniel Hahm led the team with 11 singles wins in 2013, while junior Scott Monismith finished second with eight. The doubles team of Hahm and fellow sophomore Kevin Ross return after playing all but two of the team's matches in the No. 1 position.
Portland is seeking its first win of the season after dropping matches to Washington and UC Santa Barbara in mid-January. The Pilots will face Seattle on Friday before hosting the Flames on Saturday. Portland was picked to finish seventh in the West Coast Conference preseason poll. Senior Ratan Gill was a second team all-league honoree last spring after posting a 12-9 mark at the top singles position, while senior Mikel Hu Kwo earned honorable mention status. Both live stats and a live video feed will be available for Saturday's contest.
Seattle is 2-6 overall on the season and will play two more matches before Sunday's tilt against the Flames. Last weekend, the Redhawks suffered three straight setbacks against Utah State, Utah and Weber State. Seattle's two wins this season have come against Lewis & Clark State and George Fox.
The Flames return from the Pacific Northwest for their next contest on Feb. 21 at home against Morgan State. The match is slated to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Hershey-Esbenshade Tennis Courts.