Serving up a victory

Men’s tennis downs Radford 6-1 on senior day to improve to 9-8 overall

Liberty men’s tennis took down Big South Conference foe Radford on Senior Day March 31, by a score of 6-1 at the Sports Racket.

The Flames are 3-2 in Big South play and 9-8 overall after Thursday’s win.

Return — Senior Egon Samaai is fourth in program history with 23 singles victories. Photo credit: Kevin Manguiob

Return — Senior Egon Samaai is fourth in program history with 23 singles victories. Photo credit: Kevin Manguiob

Before the action began, seniors Jason Burgess and Egon Samaai were honored with a ceremony to reflect on their careers at Liberty.

Following the pre-game ceremony, Liberty junior Sam Matheson and Samaai played off the day’s momentum defeating Janken Thoen and Alexandros Caldwell 6-1 in the top doubles slot.

“We had good momentum to keep our thumbs on them and we were able to keep the momentum running and get the job done,” Samaai said.

The third position doubles team was the next to finish. The Highlanders took the win with sophomores Michiel Meekers and Jose Moreno Manzano prevailing against Flames freshmen Alex Poynter and Eddie Gutierrez.

With the crucial doubles point in the balance, Liberty sophomores David Bush and Diego Castano stepped up after falling to a 4-1 deficit, and came back to grab victory 7-6(7-3) over Nikhil Mannepalli and Samuel Taylor.

Samaai followed his great doubles play into his singles match to defeat Caldwell convincingly in straight sets 6-3, 6-3, notching his 71st career singles win. The victory gave Liberty a 2-0 advantage on the Highlanders.

Samaai is currently ranked fourth in program history with 23 singles victories. He needs four more wins to tie Shea Thomas (27) for the most singles wins in Liberty men’s tennis history, according to

“To have our senior team captain … go out and lead us in doubles and get a win, then be the first off in singles with a win doesn’t surprise me on Senior Day,” Liberty Head Coach Chris Johnson said.

“That’s the type of leadership Egon provides.”

Poynter was the next to finish at the fourth seed with a straight-set victory 6-3, 6-3 over Taylor pushing Liberty’s lead to 3-0.

After a back and forth first set, Matheson came away with a win in the set and the match 7-6(8-6), 6-3 to keep his undefeated season alive, which clinched the victory for the Flames.

“Sam’s just a special player,” Johnson said. “You don’t use the word special very often and Sam is that.”

Matheson marked his 15th win of the season to keep his lost column blank. He is now ranked No. 106 in the country, according to

Although the match was already won, Gutierrez fought hard at the third singles spot to rally back from his first set loss of 6-3. He captured the following two sets 6-2, 6-2.

“I knew if I kept my momentum, if I just kept playing my game, then I’d be able to beat this guy,” Gutierrez said.

At the fifth seed, Castano recorded the final victory for the Flames on the day winning against Mannepalli in straight sets 7-6(7-2), 7-6(7-2).

“Everyone’s a bit more hyped up for that last home match,” Samaai said. “Especially on Senior Day. Everyone’s trying to get the win even more for the seniors, and you really saw that out there today.”

With three more matches before the post season, Johnson said he hopes his team can continue to improve their consistency in different parts of the game.

Collier is a sports reporter.

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