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Big South Men's Tennis Championship Preview
After producing one of the best regular seasons in program history, the Liberty men's tennis team will look to make a run in the Big South Men's Tennis Championship this week. The event, which is taking place in Asheville, N.C., begins Thursday with the opening round of matches.
The Flames began the season 3-3, before recording the third longest winning streak in program history, as they won their next seven matches. After suffering its only back-to-back losses on the season, Liberty closed its final seven matches with a 5-2 record, to finish at 15-7 overall, 3-4 in Big South play.
For the first time since 1990, Liberty has had five different singles players rack up double-digit win totals in singles play. Junior Siim Tuus leads the way at No. 1 in head coach Chris Johnson's lineup, winning a career-best 14 matches on the year. He closed the regular season strong, winning seven of his last 10 matches, including a straight-set win over Radford's No. 105 Nicholas Sayer. Giancarlo Lemmi and freshman Dillon Segur have claimed 11 singles wins apiece, while Wayne Harrell and Shea Thomas have been victorious 10 times.
The Flames' 88 singles victories so far are certainly impressive, but doubles play has posted an even better win percentage for Johnson's squad. Liberty's doubles teams have produced a 46-20 record this season, led by the No. 2 duo of Thomas and senior Tristan Stayt. The pair went 13-2 overall in the regular season, and 4-2 in conference play. Close behind is the experienced tandem of Tuus and Lemmi, at 11-4 overall, while also going 4-2 in Big South matches.
First Round – Thursday – No earlier than 3:30 p.m. vs. No. 3 Seed Coastal Carolina
This is the second straight year the Flames and Chanticleers will square off in the first round of the Big South Men's Tennis Championship. The seeds and the regular-season result each mirror last year's setup. Back on Feb. 25, Coastal Carolina handed the Flames a slim 4-3 defeat in Conway, S.C. Liberty was the first team to claim a point on the Chants' home courts in 2012, and will look forward to the rematch on a neutral site – especially considering the Flames are 6-0 in neutral-site contests in 2012. As Johnson pointed out, the Flames have altered doubles teams since the first meeting with Coastal Carolina, which produced much success throughout the year.
The Flames will aim to keep the parity with last season's first round championship matchup, as Liberty claimed the upset win, 4-1. The programs are 1-1 when facing each other in the Big South Championships.
The Chants concluded 2012 with a 13-5 mark, while going 5-2 in conference matches to earn the No. 3 seed. The team's two Big South losses came at the hands of Radford (6-1) and UNC Asheville (4-3).
Garik Yedigarian led Coastal Carolina in singles wins from the bottom half of the team's lineup, going 14-3 overall and 6-1 in conference play. Danny Heidecker recorded an 8-7 record at No. 1.
Sam Barr and John Karle paced Coastal Carolina with an 8-7 record in doubles matches at No. 3. The team's other primary tandems both went 7-8 for 2012.
Semifinals – Friday – 1 p.m. vs. No. 2 UNC Asheville or No. 7 Presbyterian College
If Liberty is successful in upsetting the Chanticleers once again, the Flames will meet with either the Bulldogs or the Blue Hose on Friday. These two teams face off at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, as the third match of the first round.
In Big South Championship history, Liberty is 1-2 against UNC Asheville, and has never met with PC. Interestingly, the Flames knocked off both squads in the regular season by a 7-0 margin. Liberty's win over championship hosts came in Lynchburg, while the Flames knocked off Presbyterian College on the road.
The Bulldogs stole the No. 2 seed from Coastal Carolina in the regular-season finale, as they claimed a 4-3 road win to also record a 5-2 record in Big South play. Overall, UNC Asheville went 12-9 this spring with a strong 10-2 home record.
Four Bulldogs recorded double-digit win totals in singles, led by No. 1 Adrien Langeard with 12. Jonas Brobeck and Matt Waissen each had 11 victories, while Thomas Rees posted 10.
UNC Asheville was also strong in doubles action this season, as all three teams posted more than 10 victories. Langeard and Rees went unbeaten in conference play, 7-0, while the duos of Brobeck-Waissen and Conaty-Schubel only recorded losses to Liberty, to go 6-1.
Meanwhile, the Blue Hose concluded the regular season with an 11-15 mark, grabbing one win against Big South foes. This is just their third appearance in the Big South Championship.
Rafael Berghaus led PC, winning 13 matches this season. William O'Connell posted 12 wins, while Grayson Mills and Zachary Sprouse won 10 matches apiece.
In doubles, the Blue Hose varied their lineups throughout the year. Berghaus won 18 doubles matches overall, recording nine wins with Mills and nine more with O'Connell.
Finals – Saturday – 1 p.m.
If the Flames can move through the bottom of the championship bracket, the winner of the top-half will await Liberty in the championship match. Radford is undoubtedly the favorite to advance, after rolling through its Big South slate at 7-0. Their smallest margin of victory in conference play came against both PC and Liberty, 5-2.
A championship preview will be provided Friday if the Flames are able to advance to their first-ever finals appearance in the Big South Men's Tennis Championship.
The Flames' best showing at the year-end championship came in 2009 and 2011, as the team advanced to the semifinal round.