The Liberty Flames men's tennis squad came up on the short end of a 4-2 against No. 57 UC Irvine this afternoon in Irvine, Calif.
With the loss, Liberty falls to 5-7, having dropped its second consecutive match. The Anteaters improve to 10-5 on the season following the win.
The Flames claimed the doubles point, taking an early 1-0 lead. Liberty fell in the No. 2 doubles slot, but rebounded to win the final two doubles matches to take the early advantage. Sam Matheson and Egon Samaai defeated Jonathan Poon and Justin Agbayani by a score of 6-4 in the No. 1 doubles spot.
With the doubles point knotted at one apiece, the sophomore duo of Diego Castano and David Bush claimed the point for the Flames after besting Nico Mertens and Luca Marquard, 6-4.
The Anteaters rebounded by winning the first three singles matches at the No. 5, 2, and 3 spots. The No. 3 singles slot was a tossup early on until Tyler Pham defeated Samaai in back-to-back sets, winning the position by a final score of 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.
The Flames applied the pressure on UC Irvine and put them on upset alert when three-time Big South Player of the Week, Matheson, notched his 10th consecutive singles victory to open the 2016 season. The New Zealand native claimed the first set 6-3, but fell in the second by a score of 6-2. Matheson then buried Nico Mertens in the final set, 7-5. Matheson's victory pulled the Flames to within one, 3-2.
However, UC Irvine bounced back from the No. 6 singles slot after Vatsal Bajpai defeated Bush in straight sets. The Liberty sophomore did not go down easy, forcing Bajpai to play each point out. Bush ultimately fell, 7-6(4), 7-6(4) to end the match.
Freshman Eddie Gutierrez was ahead in the third set of his match by a score of 3-2 before the contest was called following the Anteaters' match-clinching win.
"I was really proud of our guys today," stated head coach Chris Johnson. "We brought a big fight to a ranked team, took the doubles point, and almost came away with the win."
Liberty returns to action tomorrow with a non-conference match against UC Riverside at 1 p.m. ET in Irvine, Calif.
No. 57 UC Irvine 4, Liberty 2 Doubles