Sophomore Shea Thomas and the Flames begin their 2012 dual-match slate on Thursday.
The Liberty men's tennis team will begin its 2012 spring campaign on Thursday, facing Bluefield State in a 1 p.m. match. The Flames' season opener will be contested at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.
Liberty's men will sport an experienced roster this season, as last year's wins leader from each singles position is back for 2012. Among the returners are Siim Tuus and Giancarlo Lemmi, who led the team in singles victories last year (12 apiece) while competing at the No. 1 and No. 4 spots, respectively, in head coach Chris Johnson's lineup.
The Flames finished the 2011 season with 10 dual victories, reaching the double-digit plateau for the third consecutive season. Liberty also advanced to the Big South Men's Tennis Championship semifinal for the second time in program history, after upending No. 3 seeded Coastal Carolina in the opening round.
Tuus, a two-time Big South all-conference honoree and the 2010 Big South Freshman of the Year, will serve as a key leader on this year's team and is one of just four upperclassmen on the Flames' roster.
As another upperclassman, Lemmi will also play a large part in continuing the Flames' upward trend. The Sao Paulo, Brazil native, who already holds the program record for career singles wins (60), needs just one more doubles victory to become the all-time leader in that category, as well. The senior is currently tied with former teammate and doubles partner, Chad Simpson, with 63 career doubles wins.
Tristan Stayt and Mandeep Yadav round out Liberty's returning upperclassmen, while sophomores Shea Thomas and Stanislav Vaughan bring experience from last season. Matt Slamecka, who joined the Flames last spring but saw no court time, and freshmen Jorge Azuero, Wayne Harrell and Dillon Segur complete the Flames' 2012 roster.
"We are very excited to start our spring season," commented Johnson. "I have never seen so much enthusiasm surrounding our team as I do this year. Practices thus far have been outstanding. If we compete on par with our practices, we will have a very good start to the season."
Liberty will face off with Bluefield at the Greenbrier Resort for the second consecutive season, and for the fourth straight year overall. The Flames have overpowered the Rams on each occasion, winning by 7-0 margins in the first two meetings and by a 6-1 mark last season.
Bluefield has already had a pair of matches this spring, defeating both Catawba and Tusculum, 5-4.
The Flames will recognize three Rams from last season's matchup, in addition to transfer Piotr Kruk, who posted a 3-6 singles record for Liberty in limited action last season.
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