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Big South Women's Tennis Championship Preview
After finishing the regular season tied atop the Big South standings for the first time in program history, the Liberty Lady Flames head to Rock Hill, S.C., for the 2011 Big South Women's Tennis Championships and look to add to the success of the season. Tournament play opens on Thursday with three matches and concludes Saturday morning with the championship match.
After suffering a slim 4-3 loss to No. 34 Marshall on March 12, the Lady Flames held a 5-6 record and departed for their spring break matches in Orlando, Fla. Since then, Liberty's women have not lost a match, winning their last nine regular-season contests, including each of their six Big South matches. Notable wins in the span include handing Charleston Southern its first regular-season loss since 2009, defeating previously 70th ranked UNC Greensboro and a 4-3 win over Coastal Carolina on Liberty's senior day.
The nine-match win streak allowed the squad to cap off the regular season with a 14-6 record, which is the second-best wins total in the program's history, trailing only the 2009 team's 15 wins. Meanwhile, the 6-1 record in Big South matches in 2011 ties the best conference record in program history (2009), but provided the program's best regular-season conference finish with a Big South regular-season co-championship.
Five Lady Flames finished the regular season with more than 10 wins in singles play. Junior Carol Lobel led the way with 14 wins, and competed mainly in the No. 4 and 5 positions of Liberty's lineup. The Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, native recorded her best mark at the No. 4 spot, going 6-1.
The next three highest win totals in singles come from head coach Chris Johnson's freshman class, with Alexandra Sheeran, Cameron Richard and Annisha Domenech posting 13, 12 and 11 wins, respectively. Add in eight wins from fellow freshman Rebekah Jenkins and the class produced a 44-22 overall record in singles play, including a 16-7 mark in Big South matches.
Senior Jordan Jenkins also posted 11 wins in singles play this season amidst battling back problems. The Sarasota, Fla., native played all her matches at No. 1 and has won her last five matches. She went 3-1 in Big South contests.
Two Lady Flames doubles pairings posted flawless Big South marks this season. Seniors Jordan Jenkins and Hannah Fick owned the No. 1 position, going 6-0 in Big South matches and 8-0 overall. Lobel and Valeriyah Klintsevich went 5-0 in conference contests and finished the regular season with a 12-2 overall mark, mostly at the No. 3 position.
First Round – Thursday – Noon vs. Radford
Liberty opens the 2011 tournament by facing Radford, as the team looks to make a charge into its first championship match in program history. In the regular-season matchup on April 6, the Lady Flames scored a dominating 7-0 sweep over the Highlanders. After winning each of the three doubles matches to take the team point, Liberty's women continued to roll in singles, winning all six singles matches in straight sets. The Lady Flames and Highlanders have only faced off once in the Big South Championships. Radford earned a 4-0 win in 2001, which was the inaugural season of Liberty's women's tennis team.
Radford's women are 6-14 in 2011 and hold a 2-5 Big South record. Their two conference victories came against UNC Asheville and Presbyterian College, both by scores of 4-3.
Ivana Tomaic leads the team in overall wins, going 12-8. All but one of her matches have been played in Radford's No. 3 position. She was the only Highlander to post a winning record in Big South matches, going 4-3 in such contests. Narrowly missing out on double-digit victories in the regular season was the team's No. 1 singles player, Petra Dajevic, who went 9-10 this season.
Doubles play was led by the pairing of Dajevic and Mia Drobnjak, as the junior duo held an 8-5 record for 2011 in the lead doubles slot. They also posted the most wins in Big South matches for the squad, going 3-3.
Semifinals – Friday – Noon vs. No. 2 Coastal Carolina or No. 7 UNC Asheville
If the Lady Flames perform strongly against Radford again, they will match up with the winner of No. 2 seed Coastal Carolina and No. 7 seed UNC Asheville in the semifinals. The opening match between the programs takes place Thursday at 3 p.m. In the regular season contest, Coastal Carolina came out on top, 6-1.
Liberty defeated both teams in the regular season, taking down Coastal Carolina 4-3 and defeating UNC Asheville 6-1.
Coastal Carolina finished the regular season with a 19-5 mark and was part of the three-way tie for first in the Big South with a 6-1 record.
The Chanticleers also had five team members finish the regular season with double-digit singles wins. Miki Bunea (No. 2) leads the way with 19 wins, while only dropping three matches this season. Freshman Maria Hesketh (No. 6) has posted a similar record, going 18-3 in her first spring season. Diana Mortlock (No. 5) and Mikaela Kristofersson (No. 4) each have 17 wins on the year while Lexi Bolesky (No. 1) has a 15-8 record. Bunea and Hesketh each posted 7-0 records in Big South matches.
Coastal Carolina also has a pair of strong doubles teams. Bunea and Mortlock (No. 2) have gone 17-4 this season and 7-0 in Big South contests, while Bolesky and Kristofersson (No. 1) have posted a 16-5 mark overall, with a 6-1 record in Big South matches. The duo's sole loss came to the Lady Flames' Jordan Jenkins and Fick, who rallied from a 6-3 deficit to take the match by a 9-7 score.
Meanwhile UNC Asheville is 6-15 this season, while being plagued by injuries throughout the year. The Bulldogs were shut out in conference action, going 0-7.
Stephanie Schon and Devon Cavanaugh lead the team in singles wins, notching 12 and 10 wins on the season, respectively. Schon has played No. 1-4 in the lineup, but has earned five wins at the No. 3 spot. Cavanaugh has been in the No. 2-5 positions this year and has also had the most success at the No. 3 position, going 5-1.
In doubles, Cavanaugh and Britney Cloer hold the only winning record, as the duo is 7-6 on the season and 2-4 in Big South contests.
Liberty is 0-2 against Coastal Carolina in previous Big South tournament contests, while they are 1-0 against UNC Asheville in conference tournament action.
Finals – Saturday – 9 a.m. vs. No. 1 Winthrop, No. 4 Charleston Southern or No. 5 Gardner-Webb
If Liberty's women advance to their first-ever championship match, they'll meet up with the winner of No. 1 seed Winthrop vs. either No. 4 seed Charleston Southern or No. 5 seed Gardner-Webb. Charleston Southern and Gardner-Webb face off on Thursday, with the winner meeting top-seeded and tournament host Winthrop, Friday.
Winthrop has defeated both teams this season, taking down each opponent with a 7-0 sweep.
Provided the Lady Flames advance to the 2011 Big South Women's Tennis Championship finals on Saturday, look for a full preview of the contest on LibertyFlames.com, Friday evening.
Liberty's best showing in past Big South Championship tournaments is advancing to the semifinal round, which has happened on three occasions. The program's first appearance in the semifinals came in 2006, while the next two came in back-to-back seasons, 2008 and 2009.