No. 93 Sam Matheson dropped a 6-1, 6-3 match to No. 32 Wayne Montgomery of Georgia in the opening round of the singles draw at the 2016 NCAA Men's Tennis Championship, Wednesday afternoon.
The loss brings to a close Matheson's historic season, one that included him becoming the first player in program history to earn a national ranking, individually qualify for the NCAA Men's Tennis Championship and earn Big South Player of the Year honors.
With the victory, Montgomery moves to 28-13 on the year and advances to the Round of 32 where he will face No. 9 Thai-Son Kwiatkowski of Virginia on Thursday. Kwiatkowski dispatched No. 60 Stefan Lindmark of Ole Miss, 6-2, 6-2, earlier on Wednesday.
Montgomery used his prior experience in Tulsa to take the first set, 6-1. The sophomore helped Georgia advance to the semifinals of the team portion of the NCAA Men's Tennis Championship earlier this week. Montgomery won six out of seven games in the first set, breaking Matheson's serve three times.
Play on Court No. 7 at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center was much more competitive as Matheson started to settle in during his first national championship event.
The pair of nationally ranked tennis players traded games back and forth until Montgomery broke Matheson's serve in the eighth game. The Georgia sophomore followed by winning his eighth-consecutive service game in a row to clinch the overall match.
Matheson, currently ranked a career-best No. 93 in the latest ITA national rankings, is the first Liberty Flame in program history to qualify for the NCAA singles championship. Matheson is just the ninth Big South competitor to receive a national bid and the first since Philippe Tsangaridis of Coastal Carolina in 2014.
Matheson finished the spring season with an 18-2 overall record, pacing the Big South Conference. The New Zealand native also notched a program-best 28 singles victories between the fall and spring seasons.
Matheson posted the second-best, single-season winning percentage in program history with a 28-6 (.824) overall record. The Liberty junior currently ranks eighth in program history with 50 career wins in two seasons and is also currently second in career winning percentage with a 50-20 (.714) overall mark.
Matheson was named the Big South Men's Tennis Player of the Year on April 13, becoming the first player in program history to achieve this honor. The New Zealand native was also named to the All-Big South Singles first team and All-Big South Doubles first-team listings.