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Year in Review: Women's Tennis

May 1, 2012
|  Lynchburg, Va.
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Cameron Richard, the 2011 Big South Freshman of the Year, posted a seven match win streak this season en route to 10 singles victories.

After graduating the program's top two singles and doubles career wins leaders in 2011, the Liberty women's tennis team knew its youthful squad would have to step up for the 2011-12 season. While the situation certainly posed its challenges, Liberty Head Coach Chris Johnson returned a core of five sophomores who helped make the "rebuilding year" a success.

Aside from lone senior Carol Lobel and a group of experienced sophomores, Johnson completed the team's roster with newcomers Nicola Wellman and Brittany Yang. The pair of freshman earned an honorable mention from TennisRecruiting.net's annual mid-major recruiting class listing.

The Lady Flames' fall play kicked off by hosting their first tournament since 2007, as the Cook Tennis Center was completed. Liberty welcomed seven other Commonwealth programs to open its new operations center, having nine total flights of competition. Sophomore Cameron Richard had a hand in both of Liberty's flight championships, claiming the A Singles title and the A Doubles title with Yang.

After three more fall tournaments, the Lady Flames set their sights to the spring campaign, while also welcoming new assistant coach, Ryan Fitzwilliam.

Liberty faced a tough early season schedule, taking on strong programs such as Richmond, Virginia Tech, Marshall and East Tennessee State. Through its first 10 games, the team owned a 1-9 record, while being 0-2 in early Big South play.

However, a confidence-boosting 9-0 victory over Coker College set the Lady Flames up for a successful spring break trip where they added two more victories.

After falling to Charleston Southern to drop to 0-3 against Big South foes, Liberty reeled off six straight wins, leveling its overall mark at 10-10. Half of the wins came against conference opponents, to also bring its Big South record even at 3-3.

Following the team's 4-3 win over Campbell on March 30, Johnson stated, "I continue to be impressed with the heart that our girls are bringing lately. I give all the credit to them, as they have really turned things around with a lot of hard work."

Multiple Lady Flames closed the regular season strongly, led by Richard with a seven match win streak to finish with 10 wins on the year. The Birmingham, Ala., native closed the season with a 5-3 record against conference opponents. Lobel and Rebekah Jenkins also closed well, going 7-3 in their final 10 regular-season contests, to finish with 10 and nine wins, respectively. Yang led the team with 11 singles victories on the year, while Alexandra Sheeran recorded seven wins in the No. 1 position.

In doubles play, the duo of Jenkins and Sheeran led the way with nine victories at year end, playing primarily in the No. 2 slot. Richard and Yang recorded eight wins, while Lobel and Jessie Boda claimed a 6-3 record.

After claiming a 4-4 record in conference play, the Lady Flames concluded the 2012 season by falling to No. 3 seed Coastal Carolina in the Big South Women's Tennis Championships. Lobel garnered the team's lone conference award at the year-end banquet, being named to the Big South All-Academic Team.

Transitioning to next season, the Lady Flames will have the advantage of returning student-athletes who contributed 85 percent of this season's singles victories. With seven underclassmen on slate to come back for the 2012-13 season, Johnson has the Lady Flames tennis program setup for a bright future.