Despite surrendering the 3-0 lead, the Lady Flames never surrendered the match, defeating Charlotte 4-3 in a contest that lasted for more than five hours. Senior Nicola Wellman delivered the match-clinching performance over Natsuko Takayanagi to seal the victory and improve the Liberty record to 3-1. Saturday's contest was the season opener for the 49ers, falling to 0-1.
The Lady Flames began the day with a 2-1 advantage for the doubles point to gain the 1-0 lead. Maria Khval and Brittany Yang breezed through Victoria Pahlett and Fleur Holtkamp, 6-0, for the early 1-0 advantage. Valerie Thong and Evangeline Crist lifted the Lady Flames over the 49ers with a 7-6 (7-2) doubles victory over Tyler Baker and Lisa Grosselius. With the doubles point already in hand, Belen Rivera and Emily Groeneveld competed in the No. 3 doubles slot, falling 7-6 (7-4) to Macy Vonderschmidt and Takayanagi.
Liberty quickly extended the lead to 2-0 thanks to Rivera's strong performance from the No. 1 spot, winning in straight sets 6-1, 6-1 over Pahlett.
Marielly Hassey led the Lady Flames to a comfortable 3-0 lead, besting Grosselius in straight sets, 6-0, 6-4.
With Liberty ahead 3-0, Charlotte brought an abrupt halt to the Lady Flames hot start. Vonderschmidt put the 49ers on board with a three-set win over Khval, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 to begin the 3-0 run for the green and white.
Sierra Stone and Baker evened the score for Charlotte, claiming victories from the No. 3 spot and No. 5 spots respectively. Stone battled back and forth with Groeneveld before pulling away in the third set, 0-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1. Baker upended Yang from the No. 5 spot in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2.
With the score deadlocked at 3 apiece, the match came down between the senior from the Hill City school against the senior from the Queen City school. Takayanagi claimed the first set with a strong 6-3 performance against Wellman. However, the Spring Hill, Fla. native fought hard to even the score at 1-1 following her grueling second set victory, 7-6 (9-7). After the lengthy second set, it seemed as if Wellman hit a second gear, ousting Takayanagi 6-4 in the final set to clinch the match for the red and blue.
"There are some matches that having a strategy is essential but today was all about heart and who wanted it more," commented assistant coach Giancarlo Lemmi. "We are really proud of Nicola for showing her senior leadership and clinching the match for us."
The Lady Flames return to action later this evening against Villanova. The match is slated to begin at 4:30 p.m. at the Sports Racket.
Liberty 4, Charlotte 3