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Moving Forward: 2010 Women's Tennis Team
Optimism and excitement surround the Liberty men's and women's tennis teams this winter in their preparation for the 2010 spring season.
The women's tennis team has five returnees from last season's squad, which bested the school record for season victories, compiling a 15-7 record. On the men's side, the Flames return four members of a team which posted the second most victories in school history with a 13-10 mark.
Add to those accomplishments, the strong play of both squads in tournament play this fall and head coach Chris Johnson continues to move the overall Liberty tennis program ahead.
"After having things turn out so well for both teams, we want to keep the momentum going," stated the four-year coach. "This fall, we saw some great results. That's where we want to go with our programs."
Along with competitive teams on the court, the Lady Flames and Flames will enjoy their own home facility for the first time in two years. The new Liberty Tennis Courts located on the school's Campus North, not only gives the program a home, but has also adds to the enthusiasm surrounding the program.
"I didn't think our lack of home courts last year made much of a difference, but having them this year has picked up the morale of the kids," commented Johnson. "They have taken pride and ownership in the courts. People are coming out and watching practice and our kids are getting excited.
"Doing what we did last year without courts is a real tribute to the Lord and what He can do. Looking at year with having courts again and seeing the level of excitement our players have just makes it really worth it when we go out there."
A Look at the Lady Flames:
For the second straight season, the Liberty Lady Flames women's tennis team eclipsed the school record for wins, besting the 13-4 mark of 2008 with a 15-7 spring ledger in 2009. In addition, the Lady Flames finished second in the Big South standings for the second consecutive year with a 6-1 record, the top conference record in the nine-year history of the program. They also received the program's first-ever ITA ranking, listing No. 130 in mid-April.
Liberty will return four players from last season, including all-conference singles performers Jordan Jenkins, Hannah Fick and Nadia Solomon-Burgess. The three each posted 12 or more victories in singles last spring, while Jenkins and Fick paired to win 12 out of their 13 No. 1 doubles matches in earning all-conference doubles honors.
Jenkins, the most decorated of the group, returns for her third season with the Lady Flames. Returning from illness last fall, the Sarasota, Fla., native recorded a 12-7 mark in the No. 1 singles spot for Liberty and paired with Fick to post the team-leading doubles wins. For the second consecutive year, Sarasota, Fla., was selected to the VaSID All-State tennis team in singles.
Jenkins has started her junior year strong, going 11-1 this fall and capturing three tournament titles, including the prestigious Billie Jean King Collegiate Invitational, Oct. 11-13, at the United States Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.
"We made a huge transition on the women's side two years ago, with a recruiting class which ranked No. 17 in the nation and Jordan was a key part of that," said Johnson. "She has just been outstanding in the fall, inspiring the whole team.
"No one wants to win more than Jordan and she comes prepare to play from the first point of the match on. If you are her opponent, you better come ready to bring your best game, because Jordan will."
Another piece of the 2007 recruiting class, Fick, comes off a breakthrough season in 2009. Playing at the No. 4 spot in the Lady Flames' singles line-up, she tied for the team high in wins with a 15-5 mark, winning 14 straight contests during the spring. As mentioned earlier, she paired with Jenkins in doubles for a 12-1 record at No. 1 doubles.
"Hannah is a very talented and athletic player. Last season, she put it altogether and this year, she is more confident. Right now, she is exactly where a top three player should be," stated Johnson about the Hamilton, New Zealand native.
Solomon-Burgess is the final all-conference singles team member returning to the Liberty roster this year. One of two seniors on the squad, she tied for the team lead in victories with a 15-7 singles record in 2009 after transferring from junior college. She also was on the winning end 14 times in doubles with various partners throughout the 2009 campaign.
This season, Solomon-Burgess enters the spring expected to hold down the No. 2 position in the Lady Flames' singles line-up after a strong fall in which she went 7-2, winning the Flight B singles crown at the James Madison Invitational, Sept. 11-13.
"Everywhere that Nadia has gone she has succeeded, as she was a champion in junior college. She maybe be short in stature, but she is a tiger out on the court and has a never give-up attitude," commented Johnson about the 5- 5 player.
Fabiana Gouveia is the other senior on the Liberty women's tennis roster. In her third season with the Lady Flames, she has held positions in doubles and singles in the Liberty line-up. Last season, she posted a 4-5 record in singles, while combining with different partners to record a 3-5 mark in doubles.
"I think I am going to have a meltdown when she leaves," stated Johnson about the Brazilian. "She is just a staple for our team. She is the glue which holds us together and provides senior leadership.
"Fabiana shows up everyday smiling, has a fantastic attitude and represents Liberty to the fullest. She really loves Liberty. She is definitely a big part of our team."
The final returner, Valeriya Klintsevich, joined the Lady Flame roster in January 2009 and moved into the line-up a quarter of the way through the spring. The Kaliningrad, Russia native quickly made an impact, playing in the No. 5 and 6 spots in singles and compiling an 11-4 record. She closed the season with seven consecutive singles wins, helping to play a key role in the Lady Flames' 11-match win streak at the end of the year.
"Valeriya has many weapons at her disposal," noted Johnson about the 5-11 junior. "She will play either the No. 4 or 5 position for us and probably secure double-digit wins. And when you are getting double-digit wins out of your No. 3, 4 and 5 spots, it makes it very difficult on your opponent to match up with you."
The lone newcomer to the veteran women's roster so far this year has been Brittany Thomas. The sophomore from Petamula, Calif., has been a welcomed addition to the squad.
"Every coach is always fortunate to have someone who comes on to his team that brings a new level of potential and is willing to work hard," says Johnson about the newcomer to the women's team.
"She doesn't come in with any expectations. She wants to beat everyone and just goes out and works.
"I see huge improvements from this year to last year, as she is more confident, a lot stronger and faster. If that tells us anything about her this spring, then I will be really excited to watch her progress."
With a talented squad ready for the upcoming spring, Johnson's squad is drawing interest.
"When you start having success like our team did the past two years and Jordan did this fall, other coaching staffs from bigger and more successful schools take notice and want to get you on their schedule.
"It effects recruiting as we are able to get better players, which in turn helps us to compile more wins and continue to improve. It is a process that is so important to our program."