Big South Conference-leading Winthrop edged Liberty in a tight match, 4-3, at the Cook Tennis Center on Saturday.
Both teams entered the match with perfect marks in the conference (Winthrop 6-0, Liberty 4-0), but it was Winthrop who prevailed on the strength of a dramatic doubles victory and singles wins on courts one, two and four. After dropping the doubles session, Liberty won on courts three, five and six in singles.
Winthrop (13-4) is now 7-0 in the Big South with the win, while Liberty (10-8) remains in second in the conference at 4-1.
The Eagles' nationally-ranked doubles duo, No. 54 Lauren Proctor and Megan Kauffman, prevailed in a tiebreaker in the No. 1 doubles match against the Lady Flames' Evangeline Crist and Anna Dollar, 7-6 (3), to secure the important first point of the day. Proctor and Kauffmann, who have not lost this spring (15-0), led Crist and Dollar, 5-4, before Crist and Dollar broke serve to even the match (5-5). Dollar then served Liberty to a 6-5 advantage.
With Kauffman serving, the next game was tied at 30-30 before Winthrop's pairing claimed the next two points, forcing a tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Proctor and Kauffman raced out to a 6-0 lead and held on to win, 7-3.
In the other doubles bouts, Rebekah Anderson and Grace Hashiguchi of Liberty bolstered their spring record to 10-2 with a 6-2 win against Winthrop's Aida Kelic and Ellie Burns on court three. The duo was up, 2-0, early and never trailed.
The Eagles evened the doubles session at 1-apiece with a 6-2 victory of their own from Alisa Soloveva and Tayla Van Eck against the Lady Flames' Maria Medina and Lara Soares on court two.
Soares bounced back immediately in the singles session with her straight-sets (6-0, 6-1) win over Kauffman in the No. 3 singles match, tying the match up at 1-1.
After besting Medina in doubles, Soloveva did the same in singles, knocking off the Liberty junior, 6-2, 6-3 in the No. 2 singles bout to make it 2-1, Eagles.
The Lady Flames once again had an answer. Dollar topped Burns, 6-1, 6-2 on court six, which evened the match at 2-all.
Liberty needed to take two of the final three matches remaining (court one, court four and court five) to secure victory. However, Winthrop won the No. 4 and No. 1 matches, in that order, to decide the outcome of the match. On court four, Van Eck (Winthrop) topped Polina Miroshnichenko (Liberty), 6-4, 7-5.
Proctor, the 26th-ranked singles player in the country, bounced back after dropping the first set to Liberty's Ashley Bongart, 6-4. The Winthrop junior outlasted Bongart in the next two sets to take the No. 1 singles match, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, and provide a 4-2 edge to the visitors.
With the final outcome already decided, Liberty's Crist closed out a gritty two-set win over her counterpart, Winthrop's Kelic, on court five, 7-6 (9), 6-3. The win was the 85th singles victory of Crist's career.
The Lady Flames will be back in action this afternoon against Roanoke (8-1) to close out a stretch of three matches in two days. First serve is slated for 3 p.m. at the Cook Tennis Center.
Winthrop 4, Liberty 3 Singles competition 1. #26 PROCTOR, Lauren (WIN) def. BONGART, Ashley (LIBERTYW) 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 2. SOLOVEVA, Alisa (WIN) def. MEDINA, Maria (LIBERTYW) 6-2, 6-3 3. SOARES, Lara (LIBERTYW) def. KAUFFMAN, Megan (WIN) 6-0, 6-1 4. VAN ECK, Tayla (WIN) def. MIROSHNICHENKO, P. (LIBERTYW) 6-4, 7-5 5. CRIST, Evangeline (LIBERTYW) def. KELIC, Aida (WIN) 7-6 (11-9), 6-3 6. DOLLAR, Anna (LIBERTYW) def. BURNS, Ellie (WIN) 6-1, 6-2
Doubles competition 1. #54 PROCTOR, Lauren/KAUFFMAN, Megan (WIN) def. CRIST, Evangeline/DOLLAR, Anna (LIBERTYW) 7-6 (7-3) 2. SOLOVEVA, Alisa/VAN ECK, Tayla (WIN) def. MEDINA, Maria/SOARES, Lara (LIBERTYW) 6-2 3. ANDERSON, Rebekah/HASHIGUCHI, Grace (LIBERTYW) def. KELIC, Aida/BURNS, Ellie (WIN) 6-2
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (3,2,6,4,1,5) Official: S Lunsford/L Krulich T-3:01