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Flames Stay Unbeaten in Big South, Top Highlanders, 5-2

March 24, 2018  Lynchburg, Va.  RSS
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Burton and Matheson won in doubles, and both players won in singles on Saturday against Radford.

Burton and Matheson won in doubles, and both players won in singles on Saturday against Radford.

The Liberty Flames men's tennis team remained unbeaten in the Big South Conference with a 5-2 victory over the visiting Radford Highlanders on Saturday afternoon at Crosswhite Athletic Club.

The Flames (12-8) are 4-0 in the Big South for the first time in program history. They've also won three straight matches and seven of their last nine overall. The Highlanders (8-5) fall to 0-2 in the conference.

Liberty claimed the doubles point narrowly and won four of the six singles matches (No. 1, No. 3, No. 5 and No. 6). Senior captain Diego Castano won his seven straight singles bout with a victory on court six.

"Things don't always go as planned. Champions find a way to respond," said Liberty Men's Tennis Head Coach Derek Schwandt. "We responded well to the challenge today."

The Flames took the doubles point from the Highlanders in thrilling fashion to take an early 1-0 lead. Radford appeared to be in good position after their top duo of Alexandros Caldwell and Rodrigo Magalhaes upended Castano and Alex Poynter, 6-2.

Liberty led, 5-4, on courts two and three, but Radford evened both matches at 5-5. On court two, Sam Matheson and Chase Burton held serve and then broke Robin Calais' serve when leading 6-5 to take the match over Calais and his partner Michiel Meekers, 7-5.

Meanwhile, Liberty's Eddie Gutierrez and Vince Salas were also up, 5-4, against Radford's Matko Varga and Carlos Sala. However, the Highlanders' duo rallied to take the next two games and a 6-5 lead. Gutierrez served the next game, leading the Flames into a tiebreaker. Gutierrez and Salas trailed, 4-3, in that tiebreaker but won the next two points to go up, 5-4. Salas' overhead smash made it 6-4. After a Radford point (6-5), a Highlanders' miscue into the net provided Liberty the 7-6 (7-5) win in the tiebreaker.         

Liberty's Poynter opened the singles session with a convincing 6-2, 6-1 win over Sala on court five to make it 2-0, Flames. The Flames junior now has five wins in the No. 5 position in the lineup, this spring.

Following his doubles victory, the Highlanders' Magalhaes knocked off the Flames' Gutierrez on court two in straight sets (6-2, 6-1), trimming the deficit in half to 2-1.

Liberty's No. 1 singles player, Matheson, thwarted Radford's chance to tie up the match with his two-set triumph against Caldwell. Matheson trailed, 2-1, in both sets but finished each strong for the 12th No. 1 singles victory of his senior campaign.

With a 3-1 lead, the Flames' Burton sealed the victory with a 6-0, 1-6, 6-1 win against his opponent, Varga, on court three. The Liberty sophomore is now 10-5 at No. 3 singles in the spring and with the win made it 4-1, Liberty.

Radford's Meekers battled back from a first-set loss (6-2) to Salas in the No. 4 singles match, forcing a third set with a 6-2 win in the second. Locked in a 4-4 tie in the final set, Meekers held serve and broke serve to win the match, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4, for the Highlanders' second point of the day.

Castano, who was the last Flame to start his match following Poynter's win on court five, rolled to a 6-1, 6-3 win over his counterpart, Calais, bringing the final tally to 5-2 in favor of Liberty. Castano has not lost in singles since March 2 and is 13-3 in the No. 6 position, this spring.

The Flames will have some time off from their match schedule before returning to the courts on April 6 at Presbyterian.

Liberty 5, Radford 2
Singles competition
1. MATHESON, Sam (LIBERTYM) def. CALDWELL, Alexandros (RAD) 6-3, 6-2
2. MAGALHAES, Rodrigo (RAD) def. GUTIERREZ, Eddie (LIBERTYM) 6-2, 6-1
3. BURTON, Chase (LIBERTYM) def. VARGA, Matko (RAD) 6-0, 1-6, 6-1
4. MEEKERS, Michiel (RAD) def. SALAS, Vince (LIBERTYM) 2-6, 6-2, 6-4
5. POYNTER, Alex (LIBERTYM) def. SALA, Carlos (RAD) 6-2, 6-1
6. CASTANO, Diego (LIBERTYM) def. CALAIS, Robin (RAD) 6-1, 6-3
Doubles competition
1. CALDWELL, Alexandros/MAGALHAES, Rodrigo (RAD) def. CASTANO, Diego/POYNTER, Alex (LIBERTYM) 6-2
2. MATHESON, Sam/BURTON, Chase (LIBERTYM) def. MEEKERS, Michiel/CALAIS, Robin (RAD) 7-5
3. GUTIERREZ, Eddie/SALAS, Vince (LIBERTYM) def. VARGA, Matko/SALA, Carlos (RAD) 7-6 (7-5)
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (5,2,1,3,4,6) Official: Harrison/Harrison  T-3:05