The Liberty Lady Flames tennis team won a thriller over the Charleston Southern Buccaneers, 4-3, on Friday at the Cook Tennis Center, handing the visitors their first Big South loss of 2017.
Liberty's victory also helped the Lady Flames clinch a share of the Big South Conference regular season crown for the second straight season. The one-point victory also snapped the Buccaneers' 14-match winning streak dating back to Feb. 11.
Liberty (11-11) closes the Big South regular season slate with a 7-1 record and has won three straight matches overall, while Charleston Southern (15-2) falls to 6-1 in league play with the setback.
"This was an important win for us today. CSU is a very good team, so we had to play at a high level and with great mental strength in order to the ‘W'," stated Liberty Women's Tennis Head Coach Jeff Maren. "Usually, our seniors carry us to wins, but today it was our underclassmen who lifted us to victory. I'm so proud of Genie [Eugenia Camacho] for winning both of her matches. It was also great to see Anna and Evangeline fight so hard in their wins, too. Overall, today was a great team effort."
Locked in a 2-2 tie, Liberty junior Evangeline Crist (No. 2 singles) and freshman Eugenia Camacho (No. 6 singles) delivered the crucial final two points for the Lady Flames with thrilling three-set victories. Both players dropped their first sets before roaring back to claim wins.
Crist lost, 6-1, to Nicolin Luecke in the first set, but rebounded for a 6-1 set two victory, forcing a deciding third set. During the final set, Crist fell behind, 3-0, but won six of the next seven games to take the match, 1-6, 6-1, 6-4. Crist's triumph brought the Lady Flames to within one point of victory at 3-2.
Camacho was also locked in a tight battle with Yana Morar on court six. After dropping the first set, 7-5, Camacho came back to defeat Morar, 6-3, in the second set. Trailing 5-4 to Morar in set three, the San Jose, Costa Rica, native claimed the next three games to win the set, 7-5, and clinch the overall match for Liberty.
Camacho's match-clinching point put the home side on top, 4-2, and brings her Big South singles record to a perfect 8-0, this season.
"The most special thing to me about the match was our freshman Genie [Eugenia Camacho] pulling out a win in the third set. Her fight was motivation for the rest of the girls to give it that extra kick at the end," Crist said. "It was an important win for us going into the Big South Tournament."
Liberty exhibited strong play during the doubles session, winning on courts three and one to capture the doubles point for a fourth straight match.
The Lady Flames' senior pairing of Mariely Hassey and Emily Groeneveld led through most of their No. 3 doubles match with Morar and Kimberly Koerner and went on to win, 6-3. The Liberty seniors were even, 2-2, with CSU but won three of the final four games for their 12th doubles victory of the spring season.
Sophomore Rebekah Anderson and Eugenia Camacho, who had never played No. 1 doubles together prior to Friday, showed no signs of trepidation. The Liberty sophomore and freshman were all square, 3-3, in their match with the Buccaneers' No. 1 unit of Sophie Cloessner and Luecke before taking the last three games for a 6-3 victory. Anderson and Camacho's victory on court one allowed Liberty to take a 1-0 overall lead.
The Lady Flames nearly swept the doubles point if not for a comeback effort from CSU's Mi'Kola Cooper and Valeria Koussenkova on court two against Liberty's Anna Dollar and Evangeline Crist. Dollar and Crist possessed firm control of the match with a 5-2 lead before storming back to take five straight games and the match, 7-5.
Dollar provided the Lady Flames a two-point cushion (2-0) early on in the singles session, as she took care of Cooper in straight sets (6-3, 6-1) in the No. 3 singles bout. Dollar's dominant triumph was her 13th singles triumph of the spring against just six losses.
Koussenkova required two sets (6-3, 6-4) to topple Liberty singles wins leaders Hassey on court five, bring the visiting Bucs back to within a point at 2-1.
Koerner ousted Groeneveld, 7-5, 6-2, in the No. 3 match, ending Groeneveld's seven-match winning streak and evening the match at 2-all.
While Crist and Camacho emerged victorious, sophomore Rebekah Anderson was locked in a fight with the Bucs' Cloessner in the No. 1 match.
Anderson trailed 6-5 in set one but forced a tiebreaker. Trailing 8-7 in the tiebreaker, the sophomore won three straight points for a first-set victory (7-6 [10-8]). Anderson carried the momentum over into set two, as she raced out to a 4-1 lead. But Cloessner rallied to win five straight and take the second set, 6-4.
Anderson and Cloessner were about to begin the deciding third set as Camacho sealed the match for the host Lady Flames. The two players settled their No. 1 singles showdown with a 10-point tiebreaker, won by Cloessner, 10-7. Cloessner's come-from-behind three-set 6-7 (8-10), 6-4, 1-0 (10-7) victory settled the final score at 4-3.
Big South Conference regular season play will wrap up tomorrow. Following tomorrow's final conference match between Charleston Southern and Longwood, the conference will release the seeds and bracket for the 2017 Big South Women's Tennis Championship. The four-day tournament, which will be contested at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex in Winston-Salem, N.C., begins next Thursday and wrap up on April 23.