Flames Tennis Beats Patriots at Home

Liberty tennis star Sam Matheson stared down George Mason University player Edward Ayers before delivering a thunderous serve that began a back-and-forth volley between the two teams’ most talented tennis players, all with the match point in the Flames favor on the line.

As the volley progressed, Matheson’s stamina increased while Ayers’ stamina appeared to weaken, resulting in Matheson walking off the court victorious while also clinching the Flames overall match victory on Friday, March 2, against the George Mason Patriots.

“(Matheson is) our senior, coming back from playing pro,” assistant coach Beck Pennington said. “He’s definitely the most experienced guy on the team because he’s traveled the world for the last year-and-a-half. It’s great to have him back playing our number one position.”

The former pro did not disappoint the Flames in the end, despite faltering in the second set of the match.

“He lost a little focus in the second set,” Beck said. “He was up a set in 3-0, but I’m really proud of him.”

By defeating the Patriots (2-6), the Flames (7-6) have already won as many matches as they won in the 2017 season.

“I think our whole team is fighting really hard for each other and fighting real hard for the Lord,” head coach Derek Schwandt said. “I think that we have some really good chemistry and energy going.”

Fighting hard has been the theme for the Flames as of late, as the squad has won four out of their last five matches.

Despite the Flames recent success, Schwandt is determined to maintain a perspective of focusing on refining the intricate details of the Flames game.

“What we tell the guys is that the game day is the fun part, the real work is done in practice Monday through Thursday,” Schwandt said. “That’s our real work and our guys have been crushing it in practice all through the season – fall through the spring.”

Even though the Flames took home the victory, Schwandt was critical of the areas that the team could improve.

“We’ve really got to clean up our doubles,” Schwandt said. “We’ve got the skill set to play some really good doubles. We’ve seen that in certain matches this fall. As a team we have to clean up our doubles fundamentals. Singles wise we have to manage our errors a little bit better. If your error count is above your winner count, you’re not going to win too many matches. We have to get more disciplined in our singles as well.”

Flames sophomore Chase Burton and junior Eddie Gutierrez stood out from the rest of the crowd on Friday as both players handily downed their Patriot opponents in all of their sets.

“I always tell myself to go out on the court fearless,” Gutierrez said. “I just always have to stick to my play and just keep grinding. One of the things that coach really tries to instill in us is responding to adversity. There’s always going to be some adversity down the road so I’m just going to keep responding to it.”

The Flames have made responding to adversity their theme this season. In the month of February, the Flames did not play a single home match.

“We’re really proud of our guys,” Beck said. “We haven’t had a single home match this February, so today was our second home match of the season. I’m proud of the guys because we’ve been traveling all over the country, playing a lot of double headers and playing a lot of top schools in the country. They’ve definitely kept their head in the right place and our bodies are staying healthy as well.”

The Flames will continue their quest for a Big South championship this weekend as Gardner -Webb and UNC Ashville will arrive in Lynchburg to play on Friday, March 9, and Saturday, March 10.

“Our first goal is to win (the) Big South conference,” Beck said. “I think it’s kind of up in the air right now. We’re just trying to take each match (at a time). Every match is a battle.”

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