Thong clinched the match for the Lady Flames, besting Uzelac in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3.
The Liberty Lady Flames pulled off the 4-3 upset over No. 53 Winthrop on Saturday afternoon at the Sports Racket, notching the program's first-ever victory against the Eagles.
With the victory, the Lady Flames improved to 9-8 on the season and are off to a program-best 5-0 start in conference play. Winthrop falls to 11-3 and 3-1 in conference action following the loss.
Liberty continued its dominance in doubles action on the season, winning its 11th doubles point in a row and its 13th in the last 14 matches. Liberty swept the doubles competition en route to the 1-0 lead.
Maria Khval and Anna Dollar notched the first doubles victory on the day, cruising to the 6-1 victory over Caitlin Cridland and Megan Kaufmann from the No. 2 doubles slot.
The freshman duo of Rebekah Anderson and Aleksandra Panchenko improved to 10-1 as a doubles tandem on the year after besting Alice Garcia and Tijana Uzelac by a score of 6-4 to clinch the doubles point for Liberty.
Just for good measure, the Lady Flames' No. 1 doubles duo of Evangeline Crist and Valerie Thong bested Lauren Proctor and Mariana Humberg by the score of 6-3 to improve to 13-3 on the year as a doubles tandem.
Proctor deadlocked the contest at one apiece from the No. 1 singles position after she defeated Khval in straight sets, 6-1, 6-2.
Garcia, ranked No. 114 in the ITA Rankings, placed the Eagles ahead of the Lady Flames after the senior defeated Dollar in straight sets, 6-0, 7-6(3).
Winthrop's 2-1 lead was short lived as Liberty rebounded to claim back-to-back singles matches and regain the advantage, 3-2. Belen Rivera began the Liberty rally, besting Cridland in straight sets in the No. 4 singles position, 6-4, 6-2.
The Lady Flames reclaimed the 3-2 advantage after Mariely Hassey upended Kaufmann in straight sets from the No. 5 singles positon. The first set went back-and-forth with Hassey pulling away to win 7-5. From that point on, it would be all Hassey as the junior rattled off a 6-2 second-set victory to give Liberty the lead.
Winthrop's Humberg knotted the contest at three apiece, setting up for the dramatic finish from the No. 6 singles slot. Humberg bested Crist, 6-4, 7-6(3) from the No. 3 singles position to even the score.
The final match featured two seniors in Thong and Uzelac that has poured a lot into their respective programs. Fresh off a Senior Day victory, Thong defeated Uzelac in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3 to aid the Lady Flames in a victory that featured many firsts for the rising program, including the first victory over Winthrop.
"It has been a long journey to get here this season," stated Thong. "I am just really proud of the team and the effort that we gave. We are coming together and at the right time too as we hit the final stretch of the regular season."
"This is probably our biggest win to date," stated head coach Jeff Maren. "Winthrop is a well-coached team with a rich history of success in our conference and nationally. Our confidence is sure to rise after this one. I'm especially proud of our seniors for leading the way and handling the pressure ‘like a boss'! We are already excited about our next match."
The Lady Flames return to action Thursday when they travel to Conway, S.C., to take on Coastal Carolina at 1 p.m.
Liberty 4, No. 53 Winthrop 3 Doubles