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Flames to Open Spring Slate on Saturday vs. King and Bluefield State

January 26, 2017  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Castano and the Flames begin their spring season on Saturday with a home doubleheader against King and Bluefield State.

Castano and the Flames begin their spring season on Saturday with a home doubleheader against King and Bluefield State.

The Liberty men's tennis team will begin its spring season on Saturday with a home doubleheader against King and Bluefield State.

The Flames will take on King at 1 p.m. and Bluefield State at 6 p.m. at the Crosswhite Athletic Club, formerly the Sports Racket, in Lynchburg.

2016 Recap
Last spring, Liberty went 11-11 and 4-4 in Big South play. Liberty Head Men's Tennis Coach Chris Johnson eclipsed the century mark in career victories, and junior Sam Matheson was tabbed the Big South Men's Tennis Player of the Year.

The Flames garnered the No. 5 seed for the 2016 Big South Men's Tennis Championship and bested No. 4 seed Gardner Webb in the quarterfinals before losing to No. 1 seed and eventual league champion Coastal Carolina.

Series History
Liberty has never lost to King or Bluefield State. The Flames hold a 2-0 advantage over King, after picking up a 5-2 win over the Tornado on Jan. 30, 2016 at the Sports Racket.

Liberty is 7-0 all-time against Bluefield State. The Flames last defeated the Big Blues, 6-1, on Jan. 30, 2015.

Youth Being Served
Liberty's 2016-17 roster is made up of three freshmen (Samuel Brown, Chase Burton and Vince Salas), four sophomores (Max Borcuti, Eddie Gutierrez, Ryker Heller and Alex Poynter) and a junior (Diego Castano).

Burton enters his first spring campaign ranked No. 19 in singles in the Atlantic Region, while Salas posted a team-best 8-4 mark in singles play during the fall. The Flames' strongest doubles pairing in the fall was Castano and Poynter, who went 6-1.

2017 Big South Outlook
The Flames (41 points) were picked to finish fourth in the Big South Conference men's tennis preseason poll. Winthrop (54 points) earned the top spot, followed by Presbyterian (52 points) and Campbell (50 points).

Gardner-Webb (35 points) was selected to finish fifth, followed by UNC Asheville (27 points), Radford (16 points) and Longwood (13 points).

Liberty's Big South schedule will start on March 1 vs. Longwood in Lynchburg. The 2017 Big South Men's Tennis Championship will be played at Wake Forest, April 19-21, in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Scouting King
The Tornado is off to a 2-1 start this season after finishing with a 13-11 record and 7-3 mark in Conference Carolinas play during the 2015-16 campaign.

The 2016-17 roster features one freshman, four sophomores, two juniors and two seniors.

Scouting Bluefield State
The Big Blues have yet to compete this spring after playing in four tournaments in the fall. However, they are ranked No. 41 in the 2016-17 Oracle/ITA Division II Men's Collegiate Tennis Rankings.

Bluefield State has won the Atlantic Region title five straight years in a row and features a roster of one freshman, four juniors and two seniors. Junior Alexandr Rudenco is the team's top singles player and is ranked No. 3 in the region. The Big Blues were 21-8 in the spring of 2016 and advanced to the NCAA National Championships at the Division II level.