The Liberty men's tennis squad (7-7, 1-1 BSC) will take on both Winthrop and Presbyterian this week in Big South clashes. The Flames host Winthrop (8-8, 2-1 BSC) tomorrow at 2 p.m. at the Cook Tennis Center. Liberty will then travel to Clinton, S.C., to square off against Presbyterian (7-12, 3-1 BSC) at 1 p.m.
2016 Season The Flames enter the week having most recently defeated East Carolina yesterday by the final score of 4-2 at the Sports Racket. The match went back-and-forth in doubles action, with Liberty claiming two of the three doubles matches to claim the early 1-0 advantage. The Flames split the first two singles matches to take a 2-1 edge. Liberty then claimed two of the next three singles slots, with both Sam Matheson and Egon Samaai winning their respective matches. Samaai's victory sealed the 4-2 victory for Liberty, aiding the Flames in besting the Pirates for the first time in program history.
Sam Matheson continues to lead the Flames' efforts this season. The New Zealand native has thrice been named the Big South Men's Tennis Player of the Week (Feb. 10, Feb. 17 & March 9). Matheson is 9-3 in doubles action but stands alone in singles play with a perfect 12-0 overall mark. Co-captain Egon Samaai has also accounted for nine doubles wins, tying Matheson for the most doubles victories this season for the Flames. Freshman Eddie Gutierrez ranks second on the squad in singles victories with seven.
Chasing History Senior Egon Samaai currently ranks fourth on Liberty's all-time singles wins list (69). Samaai needs six more wins this spring to pass former standout Siim Tuus for the most singles wins in program history. Samaai collected his 73rd doubles victory on against the Pirates yesterday, which ranks third most in program history for doubles wins. Samaai needs seven wins to pass former standout Giancarlo Lemmi for the second most doubles wins in program history.
Scouting the Opponent The Eagles arrive to the Hill City posting an 8-8 overall record, including 2-1 in conference action. Winthrop began conference play with a 4-3 loss against Gardner-Webb on Tuesday but then earned a 5-2 victory over Radford on Thursday, followed by a 7-0 sweep of Longwood on Friday. The Eagles and the Flames faced a familiar non-conference opponent this season in East Carolina. The Pirates bested Winthrop by the final score of 4-3 on Jan. 31.
Presbyterian enters the week with a losing record, but ranks second in the conference with a 3-1 Big South mark. The Blue Hose most recently ended a three-match winning streak, dropping the 5-2 decision to Coastal Carolina on Sunday. The loss advanced the Chanticleers into first place in the conference with a 3-0 record. Liberty won the most recent meeting between the two programs, besting Presbyterian 4-3 on March 22, 2015, in Lynchburg, Va.
What's next? Following this week's conference bouts, Liberty returns to action for three matches in four days, beginning on March 31 with a home conference match against Radford at 3 p.m. The contest will serve as Senior Day for Egon Samaai and Jason Burgess. The Flames will then turn around on April 1 to take on Gardner-Webb at noon in Lynchburg, Va. Liberty will close out the weekend with a non-conference match against UMBC on April 3 in Baltimore, Md. at 11 a.m.
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