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Flames Trek to Coast, Midwest for Upcoming Matches
The Liberty men's tennis team will cover a lot of ground during the next four days, with three matches spanning from Conway, S.C. to Stillwater, Okla. The Flames open Big South Conference play against Coastal Carolina, Saturday, before facing Oral Roberts, Monday, and Oklahoma State, Tuesday. Liberty and Oral Roberts' match will be contested at the University of Tulsa's Case Tennis Center, while the Cowboys will host the Flames at their own DeBois Tennis Complex in Stillwater.
Liberty returns to the courts after a two-week layoff. In their last road trip, the Flames lost a tight match with East Carolina, 4-3, and then closed by taking down Georgia Southern, 5-2.
Liberty has been led by the trio of Siim Tuus, Giancarlo Lemmi and Wayne Harrell in singles play so far this season, with each holding a 4-1 record. Lemmi and Harrell are each riding a three-match win streak.
After upending the No. 3 seeded Chanticleers in the Big South Men's Tennis Championships last season, the Flames will look to claim their second consecutive victory over Coastal Carolina.
The Chants are off to a strong start, holding a 5-1 record. After opening 2012 with three road victories, Coastal Carolina's match with Liberty will close a four match homestand at 2 p.m., Saturday. The Chants have yet to give up a point to a visiting team, as they have blanked Mount Olive and Longwood, 7-0, and Richmond, 4-0, in Conway.
Leo Christofides, Yusuke Kusuda and Garik Yedigarian have each posted five singles victories this season, with Kusuda being unbeaten. The pair of Kusuda and Matias Di Pasquale has led the Chanticleers' doubles effort going 4-2 overall, 3-1 in the lead match.
A couple days and over 1,000 miles later, the Flames will meet with Oral Roberts for the first time in program history, on Monday at 11 a.m. After starting the season 0-5, the Golden Eagles picked up their first win of 2012 last week, defeating Oklahoma Baptist, 4-3. Oral Roberts has one more match before hosting the Flames, as they travel to face Wichita State on Saturday.
On Tuesday, the Flames will encounter their first Big 12 opponent in program history, as they take on the Cowboys at 3 p.m. Oklahoma State is 3-1 this season, including a road win over No. 57 UNLV on Feb. 10. The day after their upset win, the Cowboys fell, 5-2, to No. 63 San Diego State in a neutral-site match, marking their first loss of the season. Oklahoma State will take on UAB before hosting the Flames.
Vlad Bondarenko, currently ranked No. 116 in the nation, has led the Cowboys from the No. 1 slot this season, posting a 4-1 dual singles record. Christopher Haworth holds the same record, splitting his time between the No. 3 and No. 4 positions, and is ranked one spot in front of Bondarenko at No. 115. The Cowboys' highest ranked player is Rifat Biktyakov, at No. 112, who is 3-2 in dual singles play.
Bondarenko and Biktyakov are also a formidable doubles duo, ranking No. 46 in the nation. The pair is 12-3 overall for 2011-12 and is 5-0 in dual matches this spring.