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Liberty Bests Radford in BSC Play, 6-1, on Wednesday Afternoon
The Liberty women's tennis team won its second Big South Conference match of 2017, defeating visiting Radford, 6-1, Wednesday at the Crosswhite Athletic Club.
The Lady Flames improve to 3-3 overall and remain in first place in the Big South at 2-0, while the Highlanders drop to 0-5 overall and 0-1 in Big South play.
"I'm happy that we won but am upset with our intensity and focus. We cannot allow these areas to drop if we are to accomplish our goals," said Liberty Head Women's Tennis Coach Jeff Maren. "We will have a strong practice tomorrow and try to get ourselves ready for the weekend."
Liberty won the doubles point in dramatic fashion. The No. 3 pairing of Aleksandra Panchenko and Eugenia Camacho rolled to a 6-0 win over Radford's Karlie Pope and Yuliia Popova to bring the Lady Flames halfway to the doubles point.
But Radford responded in the No. 1 match, as Natalie Sayer and Meili Martin overcame an early deficit to the Lady Flames' top duo of Anna Dollar and Evangeline Crist. Sayer and Martin trailed 3-2 but won four of the last five games to take the match, 6-4.
The doubles point came down to the No. 2 match between Liberty seniors Mariely Hassey and Emily Groeneveld and Radford's Drousile Dzeubou and Claire Nguyen. Radford's tandem led throughout, as they were up 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, 4-3, 5-4 and 6-5. With Hassey serving and Liberty trailing, 6-5, Groeneveld scored the point to send the match to a tiebreaker, volleying a cross-court forehand shot past Dzeubou.
In the tiebreaker, Hassey and Groeneveld raced out to a 5-1 lead, only to see Dzeubou and Nguyen even it up at 5-5. The seniors remained composed, scoring the final two points to secure the doubles point for the home side with a 7-6 (7-5) victory.
In singles play, Dzeubou brought the visiting Highlanders even, 1-1, with a straight-sets victory (6-3, 6-2) over Panchenko at No. 1.
The No. 2 match between Dollar and Sayer went to Dollar, 6-3, 7-5. Dollar controlled the first set on the way to a 1-0 lead in the match and led 5-2 in the second set before Sayer won the next three games. However, the sophomore closed out the match by taking the last two games, giving the host Lady Flames a 2-1 edge.
Moments later, Crist closed out her match with Nguyen, needing two sets to do so (6-2, 6-4). Liberty led Radford, 3-1, following Crist's triumph.
At No. 4 singles, Groeneveld needed two hard-fought sets to take down Martin, 7-5, 7-6 (7-3). The senior led 6-5 in the second set, looking to close out the match. Martin took the next game to force a tiebreaker, which Groeneveld won, 7-3, giving the Lady Flames their fourth point of the day to officially win the match.
"We felt prepared from last weekend at Wake Forest and Tennessee. We felt super confident and on top of our games going back into conference play," Groeneveld said. "None of these teams are going to give us free points or matches. We have to fight for every single one, and that's exactly what happened in doubles and singles. When things got tight, we were still confident that we could pull out the win."
The Lady Flames also captured the final two matches of the day (No. 5, No. 6 singles) to push the final outcome to 6-1.
Hassey needed just two sets to top Popova, 6-1, 6-4, for her team-best eighth singles win of the 2016-17 season. Camacho battled for a 7-5 set one victory over Pope and then dominated the second set for a 7-5, 6-0 victory to improve to 2-0 at No. 6 singles, this spring.
"We all had a slow start, but we found a way to raise our games, pull through, and win our matches," Camacho stated.
The Lady Flames will look to move to 3-0 in league play when they play at Big South foe UNC Asheville (3-4, 0-0 BSC) on Saturday at 2 p.m., followed by an 11 a.m. match on Sunday at Furman (5-4).