After falling behind, 1-0, following the doubles point, the No. 2 seed Liberty men's tennis team rebounded in singles play to down the No. 7 seed UNC Asheville Bulldogs, 4-2, in the quarterfinals of the Big South Men's Tennis Championship. The Flames advance to Monday's semifinals, where they will face the winner of No. 3 seed Winthrop and No. 6 seed Radford at 2 p.m. With the win, Liberty advances to its first semifinals appearance since 2011, giving head coach Chris Johnson his 99th victory, tying former head coach Carl Diemer for the most wins in program history.
The Bulldogs claimed the doubles point after winning two of the three doubles matches. Josh Swindler and Daniel Kripak bested Liberty's duo of Diego Castano and Jason Burgess, 8-2 to begin doubles competition.
David Bush and Jorge Azuero evened the doubles advantage at one match apiece after the No. 2 doubles tandem defeated Thomas Panoulas and John Schubel, 8-5.
With the No. 1 doubles match coming down to the wire, Asheville's Brett Landau and Alex Croker pulled ahead to down Egon Samaai and Sam Matheson, 8-6, to claim the doubles point, giving the Bulldogs an early 1-0 advantage.
Sam Matheson delivered Liberty's first point from the No. 1 singles spot. With the Flames trailing, 1-0, the New Zealand native cruised past Kripak, 6-3, 6-3 to even the match at one apiece.
Castano handed Liberty its first lead of the match from the No. 5 singles slot. After easing past Landau, the Statesville, N.C., native continued his strong play in the second set, winning 6-3. Castano's victory gave the Flames a 2-1 lead with Liberty leading on courts two and three.
The Bulldogs evened the match at two apiece after Croker upended Burgess from the No. 4 singles position, 6-3, 6-4.
With the matches coming down to the wire, the Flames claimed the next two matches to win the contest, 4-2, advancing to tomorrow's semifinals match.
Egon Samaai provided Liberty with its third point of the contest after the South Africa native defeated Swindler in three sets. After cruising to a 6-3 victory in the first set, Samaai dropped the second set by a score of 6-4. The junior rebounded in the third set, dropping Swindler by a score of 6-2 to give Liberty a 3-2 lead.
Azuero delivered the match-clinching victory for the Flames from the No. 2 singles spot. In his previous three seasons, Azuero's matches have been the match-ending decision. Azuero won his first match-clinching victory in the Big South Tournament in his four-year career this evening after besting Panoulas, 6-2, 7-6 (0). The Colombia native went toe-to-toe with Panoulas in the second set, falling behind 6-5. Azuero fought back in the next game to even the set at 6-6. Azuero cruised past Panoulas in the tiebreaker, 7-0, clinching the match for the Flames with a 4-2 victory.
"This is a special group of men," commented Coach Johnson. "They fight so hard and I couldn't be more proud of them."
Liberty 4, UNC Asheville 2