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Liberty Set for Season-Opening Doubleheader vs. Virginia Tech, NC A&T

January 18, 2018  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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The Flames will open the season on Friday with a doubleheader versus Virginia Tech and North Carolina A&T in Blacksburg, Va.

The Flames will open the season on Friday with a doubleheader versus Virginia Tech and North Carolina A&T in Blacksburg, Va.

Live Video & Scoring for Liberty vs. Virginia Tech
Live Scoring for Liberty vs. North Carolina A&T
Liberty Men's Tennis Twitter

Liberty men's tennis is set to open its spring 2018 schedule on Friday with matches against Virginia Tech and North Carolina A&T.

Both matches will be contested at the Burrows-Burleson Tennis Center at Virginia Tech. The Flames will first take on the Virginia Tech Hokies at 11 a.m., followed by a 6 p.m. neutral-site showdown against the North Carolina A&T Aggies.

"We are excited about game day. Matches are the best part of what we do," stated Liberty Men's Tennis Head Coach Derek Schwandt. "It's time to trust all the work we've put in and go compete."

Series History
The Liberty Flames and Virginia Tech Hokies, despite being separated by only 90 miles, have only met once before in a men's tennis match (2005). The Hokies claimed that match 13 years ago. However, Virginia Tech participated in the 2017 Men's Tennis ITA Atlantic Regional, hosted by Liberty from Oct. 19-24, 2017.

The Flames and NC A&T Aggies have met 14 times, but not since 2006. Liberty is 14-0 all-time in those matchups.

How to Follow the Flames
Live scoring and live video, courtesy of Virginia Tech Athletics, will be available for the match between Liberty and Virginia Tech. Live scoring, provided by Liberty Athletics Communications, will be accessible for the match between the Flames and North Carolina A&T. Find links for live scoring and live video on the Liberty men's tennis schedule page on LibertyFlames.com.

In addition, follow @LUMensTennis on Twitter for live updates throughout the day from the Burrows-Burleson Tennis Center. The Liberty Men's Tennis Instagram account (libertyumenstennis) will also provide live look-ins from the day's doubleheader.

Roster Breakdown
The Flames' eight-man roster features a blend of experience and youth. Senior Sam Matheson, the 2016 Big South Player of the Year, and fellow senior Diego Castano provide valuable experience to the squad. Matheson holds the program record for most singles wins in a season (28), while Castano has climbed to seventh in Liberty men's tennis history with 57 career victories.

Juniors Eddie Gutierrez, Alex Poynter and Max Borcuti will be competing in their third spring campaign with the Flames, while sophomores Chase Burton, Vince Salas and Samuel Brown are looking to improve upon successful campaigns from last year. Burton, a native of Naples, Florida, garnered Big South First Team All-Conference Singles distinction and VaSID All-State Men's Tennis singles second team recognition. Burton has continued the strong play into his sophomore campaign, as he reached the quarterfinals of the singles main draw by winning four matches at the ITA Atlantic Regional.

Gutierrez and Salas shared the team lead with 10 singles wins each in the fall.

New Coaching Staff
Liberty men's tennis is under new leadership for the 2017-18 season. Derek Schwandt was named the sixth head coach in program history on May 30, 2017. Schwandt, a graduate of Richmond ('05) and Fresno State ('12), previously served as an assistant coach at Georgia Tech (2013-17), Fresno State (2011-12) and Virginia (2009-10).

Joining Schwandt on his staff are Beck Pennington and Egon Samaai. Pennington, a 2017 graduate of Kentucky, finished up a five-year playing career with the Wildcats last spring. Samaai, a 2016 graduate of Liberty, is in his second season as a volunteer assistant after a four-year playing career for the Flames.

In the coaching staff's first fall together, Liberty players posted a combined 55-49 (.529) mark in singles competition and 21-20 (.512) mark in doubles.

Scouting Virginia Tech
The Hokies' first two matches of 2018 will come on Friday as well. Following their 11 a.m. match against Liberty, they will have a quick turnaround with a 3 p.m. match against NC A&T.

Virginia Tech is led by head coach Jeff Thompson, who has been at the helm since 1998. Thompson's 12-player roster features four freshmen, four sophomores, three juniors and one senior. Sophomore Alexandre Ribiero reached the finals in the singles main draw at the ITA Atlantic Regional, hosted by Liberty in the fall.

The Hokies posted a combined 63-54 mark in singles during the fall and a 17-22 record in doubles. Sophomore Abraham Asaba led the way with a 12-3 mark in singles competition.

Scouting North Carolina A&T
The Aggies opened the season with a loss at Elon, last Saturday. North Carolina A&T will play three matches in two days, starting with a match at North Carolina today. They will then play back-to-back matches against Virginia Tech (3 p.m.) and Liberty (6 p.m.), tomorrow.

NC A&T is coached by William Crutchfield, who is in his second year in charge of the program. The Aggies' eight-man roster is comprised of one freshman, three sophomores, one junior and three seniors.