The Liberty women's tennis squad returns to action tomorrow when the Lady Flames (9-8, 5-0 Big South) take on Coastal Carolina (13-3, 4-0 Big South) at 1 p.m., in Conway, S.C. The contest will begin a string of five road matches to conclude the regular season, including four straight in the Palmetto State. Liberty will also square off against conference foe Presbyterian (9-9, 0-5 Big South) on Friday at 10 a.m. in Clinton, S.C.
2016 Season The Lady Flames enter the week coming off four consecutive victories, the longest streak of any kind this season. Most recently, Liberty upended No. 53 Winthrop on Saturday by the final score of 4-3, picking up the program's first-ever victory over the Eagles. The Lady Flames took the doubles point for the 11th consecutive match, before dropping the first two singles matches to fall in a 2-1 deficit. Liberty reclaimed the lead at 3-2 after Belen Rivera and Mariely Hassey notched victories from the No. 4 and No. 5 singles slots. After Winthrop's Mariana Humberg evened the contest at 3-3, Valerie Thong provided the match-clinching victory from the No. 6 singles slot, defeating Tijana Uzelac in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3. Thong's triumph was fitting, coming one day after Liberty's 7-0 Senior Day victory over Gardner-Webb. The win over Winthrop also marked the first time that Liberty has notched a 5-0 mark in Big South action.
Liberty is led in singles by Maria Khval and Evangeline Crist, who have each posted a 10-6 overall mark this season. The Lady Flames continue their dominance this spring in doubles play, as Liberty is 37-12 (.755) heading into tomorrow's match. Liberty has claimed 11 consecutive doubles points, and 13 in the Lady Flames' last 14 matches. Crist and Thong lead the way in doubles action with a 13-3 record, winning nine in a row coming into this week's conference tilts. The Liberty duo of Anna Dollar and Khval have earned an 11-5 doubles record thus far in the spring, while Rebekah Anderson and Aleksandra Panchenko are 10-1 as a doubles tandem.
Scouting the Competition Coastal Carolina enters tomorrow's contest on a nine-match winning streak, improving its mark to 13-3 overall this season. The Chanticleers at 8-1 in contests played in Conway, as well as 4-0 in conference play. The Lady Flames currently rank first in the conference with a 5-0 record and need to defeat Coastal Carolina to provide themselves with a cushion in the conference standings.
The Chanticleers are 69-27 (.719) in singles play this spring, led by Cari Berry and Romane Delay's 13 wins apiece. Coastal Carolina also boasts three other players with double-digit singles wins this spring. The Chanticleers are also deep in doubles play with their No. 1 tandem of Sara Bondar and Libby Scott posting a 9-2 record this spring. Coastal Carolina's No. 3 doubles pair of Marie Babayan and Delay have posted a 10-2 record this season.
Presbyterian sits on the other side of the spectrum in conference action. Despite notching nine wins this spring, the Blue Hose are 0-5 in Big South play. Presbyterian has also dropped five consecutive matches entering Friday's bout with the Lady Flames. Most recently, the Blue Hose fell at the hands of Wofford yesterday, 6-1. Tracy Johnson leads Presbyterian in singles wins with 11, while also leading in doubles play with 11 wins.
Chasing History Khval and Rivera continue to climb up the program's all-time singles wins ladder. With Rivera's win on Saturday, the senior moves into sole possession of fourth place in the all-time singles list with 58 wins. Khval's split weekend places the Belarus native in a tie with Hannah Fick for fifth place on the all-time Liberty singles victories with 57.
Thong became Liberty's all-time doubles leader in Liberty's 6-1 victory over Campbell on March 3, after the senior notched her 79th career doubles victory, passing Jordan Jenkins. Thong has accounted for 24 doubles victories this season, tied with Crist, and 86 overall. Thong and Crist have registered 22 victories as a duo this season, tying last year's mark of 22 team wins. The Liberty duo need just one more victory this spring to set the new single-season record for the most team wins.
Crist has also accounted for 24 doubles victories this season and 51 overall during her first two seasons. The Georgia sophomore ranks seventh in program history for doubles wins, having recently passed Martyna Hanusz. Crist also currently holds the program record of 27 doubles wins in a single season, set in 2015. The Liberty sophomore needs just four more doubles victories to pass her own record for a single season.
What's Next? Following this week's contests, the Lady Flames will return to action on April 1 for a non-conference battle with College of Charleston at 2 p.m. in Charleston, S.C. Liberty will remain in Charleston to conclude its Palmetto State run with a conference tilt against Charleston Southern at 11 a.m. on April 2.
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