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Men's Tennis Spring Preview
The 2012 spring season was a banner year for the Liberty men's tennis program. The Flames posted the second highest win total in program history with 15 team victories. Liberty notched 90 singles wins, as five players reached double digits in the win column for the first time since the 1990 season.
Despite graduating the most successful senior class in school history, head coach Chris Johnson and the Flames are poised for another strong season in 2013. Liberty returns four players who accounted for 44 of the team's 90 singles wins last season, including senior Siim Tuus who recorded a team-best 14 victories last year. Also returning for the Flames are junior Shea Thomas and sophomores Jorge Azuero and Dillon Segur. Segur tallied 11 victories in 2012, while Thomas and Azuero racked up 10 and nine wins, respectively.
"It always hurts to lose strong senior leaders on any team," stated Johnson. "However, our returners have really stepped up this year and the new guys are developing rapidly. I also think it is worth noting that the team chemistry with these guys is outstanding. They work so hard and keep on each other to keep pushing forward."
Tuus played the entire 2012 season in the No. 1 position in both singles and doubles play. The Estonia native captured two Big South Men's Tennis Player of the Week awards and was named to the Big South all-conference squad. Tuus became the first player in program history to earn an individual end of the year ranking, finishing the season ranked No. 16 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's Atlantic Region. The senior finished the 2012 fall tournament slate with strong showings at the Southern Intercollegiate Invitational (SIC) and the ITA Atlantic Regional, reaching the round of 16 in both tournaments.
Thomas competed in 18 of his 21 singles matches last season in the No. 2 position. The junior posted an overall win total of 10 matches, coupled with a 4-3 mark in Big South play. Thomas, along with graduated senior Tristan Stayt, posted a program-best winning percentage for a doubles pair, going 14-2. The California native posted a team-best nine singles wins during the 2012 fall schedule, including the Flames' first-ever flight championship at the UVa Fall Classic, in which he bested Jonny Cornish of Virginia. Cornish entered the match with a career-best ITF World junior ranking of 80. Thomas also reached the round of 16 at the SIC.
Playing the majority of the 2012 spring season in the No. 4 and 5 positions, Segur finished third on the squad with 11 singles victories. In doubles matches, the sophomore notched an 8-4 mark while competing in the No. 3 position the majority of the time. Segur earned two Big South Men's Tennis Freshman of the Week awards. Segur delivered a win in each of the Flames fall tournaments in 2012.
Azuero began his first collegiate season by winning nine straight matches, finishing the spring slate with an overall mark of 9-2. The sophomore posted an unblemished record of 7-0 while playing in the No. 6 position. In Big South matches, Azuero collected victories in four out of five matches. The Colombia native was named the Big South Men's Tennis Freshman of the Week once and received recognition for being the conference's flight winner, in the No. 6 singles slot.
Johnson has once again brought in a strong class of freshmen, who will look to make an immediate impact for the Flames this spring. Egon Samaai, Sergio Mourelo, Guillem Secanell and Josiah Boda all received their first collegiate tennis experience in the fall and will look to transition that experience into success this spring.
Samaai posted five wins during the fall schedule, including three at the Wake Forest Fall Invite on his way to a win in the Flight B consolation bracket. At the UVa Fall Classic, Samaai, along with partner Thomas, captured Liberty's first flight victory in doubles competition. Mourelo and Secanell each collected four wins during the fall, including two victories apiece at the Wake Forest Fall Invite.
"I think if you look at the results from the fall you can get really excited about the outlook for the spring," said Johnson. "We had several players, including our freshmen, post some big wins. I'm really proud of the men and very excited to get started!"
The Flames will face a challenging schedule in 2013. Liberty's lineup of opponents includes numerous teams which finished the 2012 season ranked in their respective regions by the ITA, including William & Mary, Radford and Hawaii. Liberty opens its season this weekend on the road at the Wake Forest Invite. The host Demon Deacons concluded last season ranked No. 7 in the ITA's Carolina Region. The Flames' first home match of the year is on Feb. 2 against Averett. The matchup will be contested at Liberty's indoor facility, the Sports Racket.
"This year we are doing some things a little differently," commented Johnson. "We start with really tough competition at Wake Forest and have many more home matches than in previous years. We are very happy with our schedule this year. Our goal is to win the conference championship and our schedule plays a big part in preparing us to reach that goal."