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Lady Flames Travel to Texas for a Trio of Matches
Looking to rebound from a shutout loss at No. 63 Marshall on Saturday, the Liberty women's tennis team treks to the Lone Star state to face three nonconference opponents this week. The Lady Flames challenge UTSA tomorrow at 2 p.m. (EDT) in San Antonio, before playing No. 69 New Mexico in a neutral site contest on Friday at 1 p.m. (EDT) in Denton. Liberty wraps up its trip with a matchup at No. 67 North Texas on Saturday at noon (EDT).
Playing in their first match ever as a ranked team (No. 74), the Lady Flames were shutout this past Saturday at No. 63 Marshall, 7-0. The loss dropped Liberty's overall record this season to 7-4, with three of the losses coming versus teams who are currently ranked nationally. For the year, the Lady Flames are 2-4 in road matches and a perfect 3-0 in neutral site contests. This week's matches will be the first ever meetings between Liberty and its three opponents.
Freshman Maria Khval has a team-best seven singles wins, while a trio of Lady Flames, Belen Rivera, Nicola Wellman and Brittany Yang, each have six victories. In doubles play, Khval and Rebekah Jenkins pace Liberty with five victories, one ahead of Rivera and Yang's four wins. As a team, the Lady Flames are 36-30 in singles contests and 16-12 in doubles tilts.
Tuesday will be the first match the Roadrunners (5-7) have played in almost two weeks. UTSA, which has dropped two consecutive outings by identical 4-3 scores, saw its five-match road trip come to an end with a narrow loss to UT Arlington in its last outing back on Feb. 27. Miriam Rosell Canudas improved to a team-leading 9-3 this season in singles play with her fourth victory in a row against the Mavericks. The standout freshman also paired with Jacobea Junger to win their sixth consecutive match at the No. 1 doubles position.
New Mexico enters Friday's match with an 8-5 overall record and a No. 69 national ranking. The Lobos are 1-4 this season against ranked opponents, with losses to No. 19 Texas Tech, No. 20 Oklahoma, No. 49 Utah and No. 70 Denver and a win over No. 54 Colorado. The contest versus Liberty will be New Mexico's second neutral site match of the season. The Lobos opened the year with a 5-2 win over UTSA on Jan. 25 in Houston.
Saturday's match will be a homecoming for Lady Flames head coach Jeff Maren. Maren came to Liberty after serving six successful seasons as associate head coach at North Texas, where he helped the Mean Green transition from a 2-19 program in 2007 to win a pair of Sun Belt Conference championships (2010 and 2012). During his last five seasons at North Texas, Maren helped the Mean Green post a 75-41 record and gain a national ranking as high as No. 40 during the early part of the 2012 spring season.
No. 67 North Texas is 5-8 overall this season with six of its eight losses coming against nationally ranked foes. The Mean Green has two victories over ranked teams, beating No. 70 TCU and No. 52 Kansas State, a team which the Lady Flames lost to on Feb. 1, 7-0. North Texas is 2-2 at home this season, with both of the losses coming in its last two outings on March 7 to Louisville and March 9 to Denver.
When Liberty returns from its Texas trip, it jumps back into conference play with matches at home against Gardner-Webb on March 21 and versus No. 71 Winthrop on March 22.