Tennis gearing up for conference

Serving up competition — Freshman Stanislav Vaughan and the Liberty men’s tennis team won against Longwood Tuesday but lost two straight against Gardner-Webb and Radford. The Lady Flames tennis team won all three of their matches this week in preparation for the Big South Conference Championship, which begins April 20 in Rock Hill, S.C. Photo credit: Ruth Bibby

Both the men’s and women’s tennis teams have been battling against difficult opponents, conference pressure and nature itself this season.

They now stand just a few matches away from the Big South Championship, which is followed by the NCAA Championship tournament.

Both teams competed in conference play Tuesday, April 4 against the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs. The men faced a difficult loss with many close matches resulting in a Gardner-Webb win of 5-2.

The Lady Flames won in their close game against Gardner-Webb, taking it with a score of 4-3. The No. 1 doubles team of Jenkins and Fick was the only Liberty doubles team to pull out a win. In singles, Richard, Sheeran, Lobel and Jenkins won their matches gaining the points Liberty need to add another victory to its record.

“I’m really proud of our girls as they never give up on a match,” head coach Chris Johnson said. “We would not be where we are now if they did not fight so hard.”

The April 4 match was the Flames first step onto the courts for competition since its March 17 match against Georgia Southern.

All of the matches during the hiatus were canceled or rescheduled due to the threat of bad weather. Though Liberty fought hard and added singles victories from No. 2 sophomore Tristan Stayt and No. 6 freshman Stanislav Vaughan, they could not pull out a total win against Gardner-Webb.

“We had match after match postponed due to weather and we lost a little bit of that competitive edge that is a big factor when competing with other teams,” No. 1 doubles senior Benjamin Wirth said. “This is one reason why we played so well against Longwood and won, we used the Gardner-Webb match to regain that competitive edge.”

The Flames recovered and defeated Longwood 4-3 on April 5 at home on the Hershey-Esbenshade Tennis Courts. The win kept Liberty undefeated on its home courts.

Though the Lancers took the doubles point, singles player junior Giancarlo Lemmi, freshman Stanislav Vaughan and junior Mandeep Yadev had straight-set victories gaining three points for Liberty. No. 1 singles player Siim Tuus added the Flames winning point to the board with a No. 2 defeat of Lancer Marc Ferrigno.

“At number one doubles, Siim and I were out to a great start, and we had the home court advantage. Once the other team made the adjustments, we did not make the adjustments back to beat them and their momentum carried them to the victory,” Wirth said of their close 8-6 loss. “We have fixed that problem and we are awaiting eagerly to take the next doubles point.”

The Lady Flames added yet another win after their match against Longwood on April 5. It was a shutout in doubles as all three Liberty duos raked in a win. The Lady Flames finalized the win at 5-2, adding four singles wins to the mix.

Both teams played conference matches April 9 against Radford. The men’s team fell to 8-9 after a loss to Radford, who shutout Liberty 7-0. The conference loss put them 1-3 in conference play.

The Lady Flames, however, trounced the Radford Lady Highlanders 7-0 on its April 6 conference match, putting the Lady Flames at an impressive 12-6 in matches and 4-1 in conference games.

“We are very excited about the girls’ play at this point,” Johnson said. “To be 12-6 overall and 4-1 in the conference is achieving many of the goals we set forth at the beginning of the year. We work hard on playing smart and making the right adjustments on the court.”

In his match against Radford, Tuus was the only Liberty men’s singles player to win a set against his opponent. After losing the first set, Tuus came back with vengeance to win the second set. Both Tuus and his opponent, Ivan Salec, fought hard for domination of the third set. In the end, Salec narrowly defeated Tuus with a final match score of 6-4, 4-6 and 10-8.

The Lady Flames gave no mercy to the Lady Highlanders allowing them little to no points in their matches.

No. 5 singles player junior Carol Lobel won all her games giving her a match score of 6-0 and 6-0 and notching her 13th singles victory this season. No. 1 singles senior Jordan Jenkins and No. 6 singles freshman Annisha Domenech both crushed their opponent 6-0, 6-1.

The Lady Flames doubles teams followed suit with the No. 1 of Jenkins and senior Hannah Fick defeating Radford 8-4. No. 2 doubles pair, freshman Cameron Richard and freshman Alexandra Sheeran, won their match 8-3, and the No. 3 doubles team of Lobel and senior Valeriya Klintsevich defeated their Lady Highlander opponents 8-2.

Both teams have remaining matches before the Big South Championship, which starts April 20, and the NCAA Championship on May 8.

They face a final conference challenge against UNC Asheville on April 16. The players are preparing on and off the courts for the finale of their season, working on their individual games as well and strengthening and conditioning in the weight room.

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