Castano's victory sealed Liberty's second win of the season.
Castano's Match-Clinching Point
Sunday's match between Liberty and Kennesaw State came down to the third set in the No. 6 singles match between Flames senior Diego Castano and Owls sophomore Harrison Wood. The Liberty senior delivered a victory, lifting the Flames to a 4-3 triumph over Kennesaw State at Life Time Athletic and Tennis.
Liberty's first road victory of 2018 boosts its record to 2-3, while Kennesaw State drops to 0-3 on the season.
"Our guys left everything on the court today. It was great to see the team get rewarded for all of their hard work," said Flames Head Coach Derek Schwandt. "Everyone was a leader today and battled hard."
With four courts available at the Life Time Athletic and Tennis, Castano and teammate Alex Poynter, who are doubles partners, were forced to wait to begin their singles matches. With Liberty leading, 3-2, Poynter fell in two tough sets to Drew Lahey (7-5, 6-3) in his No. 5 singles bout. Lahey's victory for the home side evened the score at 3-apiece.
On court six, Castano took the first set from Wood, 6-3, but lost the second, 6-2, to force a decisive third set. Castano delivered with a 6-3 third-set win to claim the match (6-3, 2-6, 6-3). The Statesville, N.C., native's 59th victory in a Liberty uniform helped snap the Flames' two-match losing skid, settling the final team score at 4-3.
The Flames once again exhibited their toughness in doubles on Sunday morning against the Owls. Junior Eddie Gutierrez and sophomore Vince Salas, playing in the No. 2 position, upended Corey Smith and Harrison Wood, 6-3. The Liberty pairing is now an impressive 5-0 as a unit, this spring.
The Flames' No. 1 doubles tandem of Alex Poynter and Diego Castano battled in a close match with the Owls' Fermin Calvo Barcelo and Lucas de Tores Curth. Poynter and Castano prevailed, 6-4, which give the visitors an early 1-0 edge in the match.
Liberty's other two singles victories came from senior Sam Matheson and sophomore Chase Burton.
Matheson brought the Liberty lead to 2-0 with his 7-6, 6-2 defeat of Calvo Barcelo in the No. 1 singles matchup.
The host Owls trimmed the deficit down to 2-1 with a victory on court two from de Tores Curth. The Kennesaw State junior overcame a 6-2 loss in the first set to Liberty's Gutierrez, rebounding to take the next two sets, 7-5, 6-1 and the match (2-6, 7-5, 6-1).
The matches on courts three and four both went to three sets, with the Flames and Owls splitting the contests. On court four, Salas (Liberty) got off to a promising start against Bryan Triana (KSU) by claiming the first set, 6-4. Triana clawed back to even the bout at a set apiece with a 6-3 second-set victory and then won the third, 6-2. Triana's 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 triumph tied the score at 2-2.
The tie did not last long, however, as the Flames' Burton delivered a key win in the No. 3 position which featured a tiebreaker in the third set against Smith. The Liberty sophomore claimed the first set, 6-2, before Smith flipped the script with a 6-1 set two triumph. In a back-and-forth third set that featured a pressure-packed tiebreaker, Burton emerged victorious to take the match, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6. His victory put the Flames back ahead, 3-2.
Liberty will once again be challenged next weekend, playing three matches in three days on the road. The Flames will play UNC Wilmington (2-1) on Friday at 1 p.m., followed by a neutral-site matchup at 10 a.m. on Saturday against future Big South opponent USC Upstate in Wilmington, N.C.
Liberty will close the weekend with a bout at three-time defending national champion Virginia on Sunday at 5 p.m. in Charlottesville, Va.
Our senior Diego Castano with the clinch!! 4-3 win over Kennesaw State!! #FightFlames #Liberty pic.twitter.com/S6bKBGBYcd — Liberty Men's Tennis (@LUMensTennis) February 4, 2018
Our senior Diego Castano with the clinch!! 4-3 win over Kennesaw State!! #FightFlames #Liberty pic.twitter.com/S6bKBGBYcd