liberty men’s tennis takes home second asun title in a row
The Liberty men’s tennis team has done it again. Concluding an impressive regular season campaign, the Flames managed to repeat as ASUN Conference Champions for the second straight year and second time in program history, besting Florida Gulf Coast University 4-2 to recapture the conference title.
Liberty entered the conference tournament in Fort Myers, Florida, as the top seed, opening play against Jacksonville State in the quarterfinal round. Having already swept the Gamecocks in regular season play, Liberty displayed continued command as they earned a 4-0 victory.
Flames’ pair Josh Wilson and Christiaan Worst defeated JSU’s Daisuke Inagawa and Thomas Norwood in doubles, improving to 7-1 this spring. The doubles dominance continued as ASUN Doubles Pair of the Year Nicaise Muamba and Rafael Marques Da Silva garnered their team-best 10th spring victory after ousting Jordi Blanchar and Vanja Dobrnjac 6-3.
In singles play, Christiaan Worst, Thando Longwe-Smit, and Josh Wilson all won their respective matches, with Wilson’s win clinching a semifinal berth for the Flames.
The semifinal round proved to usher much of the same for Liberty as a 4-0 victory against the Kennesaw State Owls earned the Flames a spot in the conference title match. After Muamba and Marques Da Silva disposed of their doubles match to put Liberty on the board, Marques Da Silva made it look easy in singles, overtaking Kennesaw State’s Harvey Conway, 6-1, 6-1, for a 2-0 lead.
Muamba, however, was the one who would make the Flames officially finals-bound with an impressive 6-2, 6-2 victory against Owls’ Raul Garcia.
The two 4-0 victories would place the Flames on the court for finals play against the Florida Gulf Coast Eagles in a rematch of last year’s championship round, where the Flames knocked off the Eagles 4-0 to become 2021 ASUN Conference Champions.
Hopes that Liberty would hold FGCU scoreless in this year’s match were spoiled early, as the Eagles gained an early 1-0 lead in doubles play. FGCU would extend its lead to 2-0, with the first singles point of the contest coming from Guglielmo Stefanacci in a 6-0, 6-2 match.
Superior singles play from Nicaise Muamba and Christiaan Worst, however, were all the Flames needed to even the scoreboard.
Next on the court was Liberty’s Josh Wilson and 2022 ASUN Player of the Year in FGCU’s Magnus Johnson. Johnson gained an early 4-3 lead in the first set, only for Wilson to come from behind and capture the next three of four games for the 6-4, 6-4 win in straight sets.
A now 3-2 Liberty lead would paint a clear path to victory for the Flames. Both final two matches would go to third sets, with Liberty’s Marques Da Silva earning a 4-2 lead over Marcelo Sepulveda. It would be, however, sophomore Thando Longwe-Smit who would come from behind after dropping his opening set with a three-set victory over Juan Lopez to give the Flames their fourth point and second consecutive conference crown.
The conclusion of tournament play would find Liberty’s Nicaise Muamba and Josh Wilson with ASUN All-Tournament team selections, and senior Muamba would ultimately be given ASUN Championship MVP honors.
While adding another ASUN Conference trophy to the shelf is an outstanding achievement for Liberty’s tennis program, the job isn’t finished yet. The Flames will now take their talents to Champaign, Illinois, for the 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Tournament after securing an automatic berth with their conference victory. Liberty’s first round opponent will be revealed when the 2022 NCAA Men’s Tennis Selection Show airs May 2 at 6 p.m. on NCAA.com.
CORY is the sports editor. Follow her on Twitter