Matheson, Gutierrez and Schwandt Interviews
Down two points early in the match, Liberty men's tennis roared back with four key singles wins to defeat the visiting George Mason Patriots, 4-3, on Friday afternoon at Crosswhite Athletic Club.
Liberty improves to 7-6 overall and has now won four of its last five matches. George Mason falls to 2-6 with the loss.
"I'm really happy with how hard our team has been practicing and competing. We have to hold each other accountable to clean up some fundamentals to continue to improve as a team," said Liberty head coach Derek Schwandt.
The Patriots captured the doubles point to start off the afternoon. George Mason's No. 2 duo, Daniel Gutierrez and Ryan Charles, led throughout their match with the Flames' Sam Matheson and Chase Burton, winning 6-2.
In No. 3 doubles, Liberty's Eddie Gutierrez and Samuel Brown, playing together for the first time this year, fell to Guiliano Buzoianu and Carter Bradford, 6-3. The Patriot duo's victory lifted the visitors to a 1-0 lead.
At the onset of singles, Bradford, fresh off his doubles victory, rolled to a 6-1, 6-0 win over Diego Castano in the No. 5 singles bout, placing Liberty in an early 2-0 hole.
The Patriots appeared to be in good position on court four as well, as Gutierrez (George Mason) won set one, 6-1, against Alex Poynter. Poynter staged a remarkable turnaround in the match, winning 12 of 13 games in sets two and three for a 1-6, 6-1, 6-0 victory.
Burton evened up the match at 2-apiece with his straight-sets (6-3, 6-2) victory over his opponent, Pally Ray.
With three matches remaining on the courts (No. 1, No. 2 and No. 6), the No. 1 and No. 2 matches ended up deciding the outcome. The most dramatic match of the day was between Liberty's Gutierrez and George Mason's Jakob Nielsen. Leading 5-4 in the first set, the Flames junior prevailed, 6-4.
Gutierrez trailed, 6-5, in set two before winning the next game to force a tiebreaker. He trailed Nielsen, 6-3, in that tiebreaker but clawed back to tie it at 6-6. In a back-and-forth next several points, Gutierrez finally emerged victorious, 13-11. The Mexico native's team-leading 18th singles win this year (and eighth this spring), 6-4, 7-6 (11), allowed Liberty to take its first lead of the match, 3-2.
Meanwhile, Matheson (Liberty) and Edward Ayers (George Mason) split their first two sets in the No. 1 match, and Buzoianu (George Mason) was up a set on Max Borcuti (Liberty) on court six.
Matheson sealed the match for the Flames with a 6-2 third-set victory. The senior's seventh No. 1 singles win of the spring (6-4, 3-6, 6-2) extended the Liberty lead to 4-2 and clinched the match.
After dropping his first set, 6-0, and trailing 4-1 in the second set, Borcuti took six of the next seven games from Buzoianu to even the match at a set apiece with a 7-5 triumph. In the third set, Buzoianu provided the visitors their third point of the day with a 6-2 win and 6-0, 5-7, 6-2 overall victory.
Liberty will play a road match at William & Mary (6-3, 1-0 CAA) tomorrow at 3 p.m. at the McCormack-Nagelson Tennis Center in Williamsburg, Va.
Liberty 4, George Mason 3 Singles competition 1. MATHESON, Sam (LIBERTYM) def. Edward Ayers (MASON) 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 2. GUTIERREZ, Eddie (LIBERTYM) def. Jakob Nielsen (MASON) 6-4, 7-6 (13-11) 3. BURTON, Chase (LIBERTYM) def. Pally Ray (MASON) 6-3, 6-2 4. POYNTER, Alex (LIBERTYM) def. Daniel Gutierrez (MASON) 1-6, 6-1, 6-0 5. Carter Bradford (MASON) def. CASTANO, Diego (LIBERTYM) 6-1, 6-0 6. Giuliano Buzoianu (MASON) def. BORCUTI, Max (LIBERTYM) 6-0, 5-7, 6-2
Doubles competition 1. POYNTER, Alex/CASTANO, Diego (LIBERTYM) vs. Pally Ray/Jakob Nielsen (MASON) 2-5, unfinished 2. Daniel Gutierrez/Ryan Charles (MASON) def. MATHESON, Sam/BURTON, Chase (LIBERTYM) 6-2 3. Giuliano Buzoianu/Carter Bradford (MASON) def. GUTIERREZ, Eddie/BROWN, Samuel (LIBERTYM) 6-3
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3); Singles (5,3,4,2,1,6) Official: R Lawson/M Wheeler T-3:29