The Liberty men's tennis squad will open its season this Saturday with a doubleheader against Eastern Kentucky at 11 a.m., followed by King at 6 p.m. Both contests will be played in the Sports Racket in Lynchburg, Va.
Winter storm Jonas prohibited the Flames from taking the court this previous Friday against James Madison and Morehead State.
2015 Recap The Flames finished the 2015 season with a 14-10 overall mark, including a program-best six conference victories. Liberty also posted its highest year-end regional ranking in program history, claiming the No. 8 spot in the Atlantic Region on June 4. The Flames garnered the No. 2 seed for the 2015 Big South Men's Tennis Championship, the highest seed in program history. Liberty bested No. 7 seed UNC Asheville by a score of 4-2, before falling in the semifinals to eventual champion Winthrop, 4-0.
Mixing Things Up Liberty returns five players from last year's roster, including Sam Matheson and Egon Samaai. Matheson enters the season ranked as the No. 15 singles player in the Atlantic Region. The red and blue welcome four freshmen in Max Borcuti, Eddie Gutierrez, Ryker Heller and Alex Poynter.
Home Court Advantage The Flames finished the 2015 season with an untarnished 8-0 record in the Hill City. Liberty is a combined 8-2 in the last three seasons in matches played at the Sports Racket.
Season Opening Success Liberty has won four consecutive season-opening matches to go along with five consecutive home openers. The Flames are 7-3 in the last 10 years in season-opening contests.
Chasing History Senior Egon Samaai enters the spring season following a successful fall campaign where he collected eight singles victories. The South African native is tied for fourth on Liberty's all-time singles wins list (63) with former teammates Jorge Azuero and Dillon Segur. Samaai needs 12 wins this spring to pass former standout Siim Tuus. Samaai has also accounted for 64 career doubles wins, ranking fifth in program history. The senior needs two wins to pass Segur for the fourth most doubles wins and 19 to eclipse Shea Thomas for the most doubles wins in program history.
The Century Mark Head Coach Chris Johnson enters the season with 99 career victories, tied with Carl Diemer for the most wins at the helm of the program. With one win this weekend, Johnson will reach win No. 100 and become the winningest men's tennis coach in Liberty history.
Scouting the Opponent Eastern Kentucky arrives in Lynchburg with an 0-5 start to the season. Most recently, the Colonels fell to Purdue on Saturday, 4-0. Liberty owns a 1-0 advantage over Eastern Kentucky, defeating the Colonels by a score of 6-1 on March 2, 2013 in Lynchburg, Va. King holds a 1-2 record this season, with all three matches being played in the fall. The Tornado most recently defeated Milligan College, 9-0, on Oct. 16, 2015. The Flames have the 1-0 advantage in the series, defeating the Tornado a year ago from Saturday on Jan. 30, 2015 by a score of 7-0 in Lynchburg, Va.
What's next? Following Saturday's contests, Liberty returns to action on Feb. 5 at 2 p.m. The Flames welcome the Furman Paladins to the Hill City with the match being played at the Sports Racket.
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