The Liberty men's tennis squad will travel to Florida this weekend for a trio of non-conference matches in Tallahassee, Fla. The Flames will square off against Florida A&M on Friday at 2:30 p.m., before matching up against host Florida State on Saturday at 10 a.m. Liberty will conclude its Sunshine State trip with a 9 a.m. match against The Citadel on Sunday.
2016 Season The Flames are off to a 3-3 start to begin the season. Most recently, Liberty swept North Carolina Central and Norfolk State in a non-conference doubleheader on Saturday at the Sports Racket. The Flames clipped the Eagles by a score of 5-2, followed by a dominating 6-1 victory over the Spartans.
Sam Matheson continues to lead the Flames' efforts this season. The New Zealand native garnered Big South Player of the Week honors on Feb. 10, and rightfully so. Matheson is 3-2 in doubles this season to go along with a perfect 5-0 mark in singles action. Matheson leads Liberty in wins in both doubles and singles.
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 welcomed four freshmen in Max Borcuti, Eddie Gutierrez, Ryker Heller and Alex Poynter.
Chasing History Senior Egon Samaai enters the spring season following a successful fall campaign, where he collected eight singles victories. The South Africa native ranks fourth on Liberty's all-time singles wins list (66) having just passed former teammates Jorge Azuero and Dillon Segur on Saturday. Samaai needs nine more wins this spring to pass former standout Siim Tuus for the most singles wins in program history. Samaai has also accounted for 67 career doubles wins, passing Segur for the fourth most doubles wins in program history. The senior needs 16 wins to eclipse Shea Thomas for the most doubles wins in program history.
The Century Mark Head Coach Chris Johnson became the all-time winningest coach in Liberty men's tennis history on Jan. 30, reaching the century mark for his 100th career victory at the helm of the program. Johnson is the first coach in program history on either the men or women's side to reach 100 career victories with their respective team. The Hickory, N.C., native currently has 102 career victories with the Flames. Johnson also accounted for 64 victories as the coach of the women's program from 2007-2012.
Scouting the Opponent Florida A&M enters Friday's contest having notched one victory this season. The Rattlers dropped six of their first seven matches, having only beaten Jacksonville State on Jan. 23, by a score of 4-3. Friday will mark the first time that Florida A&M and Liberty have squared off in program history.
Florida State enters the weekend on a different side of the spectrum. The Seminoles are currently ranked No. 25 in the latest ITA Division I Men's Collegiate Tennis Ranking posted this afternoon. Florida State boasts a 6-2 overall record, despite dropping its most recent match to No. 3 Texas A&M by a score of 4-3 in College Station, Texas. Benjamin Lock and Marco Nunez headline the Seminoles' squad, with Lock ranked No. 15 and Nunez ranked No. 71 in the ITA National Rankings. Florida State and Liberty will meet for the first time in program history on Saturday.
The Citadel currently holds a 7-6 overall record heading into the weekend. The Bulldogs will face both Florida A&M and Florida State before taking on the Flames on Sunday. The Citadel is on a six-match win streak, having most recently downed Erskine College by a score of 9-0 on Saturday. The Bulldogs are currently 0-5 this season against Division I opponents heading into the weekend tournament. The Flames are 1-6 all-time against The Citadel, having won the most recent matchup by a score of 4-3 in 2000.
What's next? Following this weekend's outing, Liberty will return to action on March 2 when the Flames open up Big South action against Longwood at 2 p.m., in Farmville, Va.
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