Despite the early 1-0 lead, the Liberty women's tennis team suffered its first setback of the 2015 season, falling to Florida International, 4-3, on Sunday afternoon at the FIU Tennis Courts.
The Lady Flames began the day with a loss from the No. 2 doubles position, held by No. 57 ranked Emily Groeneveld and Valerie Thong. The nationally ranked duo fell to Carlotta Orlando and Nina Nagode, 6-1. Liberty rallied together to claim the doubles point, winning from the No. 1 and No. 3 spots, respectively. Maria Khval and Brittany Yang were successful in downing Yana Koroleva and Nerma Caluk from the No. 1 position, 6-2, before Belen Rivera and Evangeline Crist clinched the doubles point from the No. 3 slot, defeating Valentina Briceno and Kaitlin Brozovich, 6-3.
Singles began in favor of the Panthers, with Koroleva upending Mariely Hassey, 6-1, 6-3 from the No. 1 spot. FIU then took the lead with a 6-3, 6-0 victory from the No. 2 spot as Orlando defeated Rivera.
Senior, and Florida native, Nicola Wellman tied the match at two apiece with a straight-set victory from the No. 6 position, ousting Briceno, 6-2, 6-2.
The Panthers regained the lead when Nagode defeated Khval, 6-3, 6-2 from the No. 4 spot to push the match back in FIU's favor, 3-2.
Once again, the Lady Flames fought hard to even the match, with Crist winning in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5 over Brozovich from the No. 5 position.
After trading match for match, one team had to fall with just one match left. Groeneveld and Caluk were deadlocked in tight battle on court No. 3. With the match on the line for both teams, there could not have been a more dramatic finish, with each set ending in a tiebreaker. Caluk wound up beating Groeneveld in straight sets, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (7-4), but not without a fight from the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. native.
The Lady Flames return to action on Saturday, when they host a doubleheader at the Sports Racket against Charlotte at 10 a.m. and Villanova at 3:30 p.m.
Florida International 4, Liberty 3