Poynter and Castano helped Liberty claim the doubles point on Friday night at Auburn.
The host Auburn Tigers defeated the visiting Liberty Flames, 4-1, in the first-ever meeting between the two schools on Friday night at Yarbrough Tennis Center.
The Flames claimed the doubles point for a fourth consecutive match, but could not fend off the Tigers in singles. Auburn won in the No. 2, No. 3, No. 5 and No. 6 singles bouts to claim the 4-1 triumph.
The Tigers' third straight victory brings them to 6-2 on the season, while Liberty falls to 1-3 on the year with the setback.
"Our guys brought the energy tonight and played hard," said Flames head coach Derek Schwandt. "We are learning that we have to match a tough opponent with physicality and persist in a battle."
The Flames extended their unbeaten streak in doubles play to four matches with a dramatic victory from Diego Castano and Alex Poynter. The pair won the final doubles bout on the court to earn the first point of the day. The duo initially trailed Auburn's Edward Nguyen and Matteo De Vincentis, 3-0, in their match.
However, the Flames' duo worked their way back into the match, winning four of the next six games to trail, 5-4. As it became apparent that this match would decide the doubles point, the experienced Liberty duo elevated its game under pressure. Castano and Poynter took the final three games to win, 7-5, and put the Flames on top of the Tigers, 1-0.
Liberty has now won the doubles point in each of its first four spring matches (Virginia Tech, North Carolina A&T, Richmond and Auburn) and boasts a 9-2 doubles mark in those contests.
Auburn came halfway to securing the doubles point in the early portion of the match. The Tigers' pairing of Olle Thestrup and Tad Maclean led throughout their match and defeated Liberty's Chase Burton and Sam Matheson, 6-2, on court three.
The Flames' Eddie Gutierrez and Vince Salas knocked off Carles Sarrio and Diego Chavarria, 6-3, in the No. 2 doubles bout. Knotted at 1-1, Gutierrez and Salas seized command of the match by winning the next four games. The tandem improved to 4-0 on the young season.
In singles competition, Auburn won 10 of 11 finished sets overall, including straight-sets victories in the aforementioned wins on courts two, three, five and six. The Tigers' Sarrio drew the home side even at 1-1 with a 6-1, 6-1 triumph over the Flames' Gutierrez on court two.
Auburn's Brandon Laubser knocked off Liberty's Poynter in two sets as well (6-2, 6-3), giving the hosts a 2-1 lead. Thestrup bolstered the Tigers' advantage to 3-1 with a straight-sets win against Burton (6-4, 6-3) on court three.
Liberty's Castano led, 3-1, in the first set of his No. 6 singles match against Michael Durham. The Auburn sophomore surged ahead for a 6-4 triumph in the set and carried that momentum into a 6-4, 6-2 victory. Durham's fourth victory of the spring proved to be the clinching fourth point.
The other two matches at Yarbrough Tennis Center went unfinished. Liberty's Matheson was the only Flame to win a set on Friday evening. After losing, 6-1, in set one to De Vincentis, he took the second set, 6-3, and led, 1-0, in the third. His match on court one was halted following the clinching point.
The Flames' Salas dropped a tough tiebreaker in the opening set, 7-6 (7-5) to Maclean and trailed in the second set before play seized.
Liberty will make the journey from Auburn to Kennesaw State for a match on Sunday morning. The Flames and Owls will square off at 9 a.m. at Life Time Athletic and Tennis in Peachtree Corners, Ga.
Kennesaw State Athletics Athletics Communications will be providing live results via StatBroadcast for Sunday's match between the Liberty and Kennesaw State. Find the link for live scoring on the Liberty men's tennis schedule page on LibertyFlames.com.
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