Gutierrez won his singles match on Monday vs. Longwood.
Liberty men's tennis bowed out of the 2018 Big South Men's Tennis Championship following a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to Longwood in the quarterfinals, Monday at the Rock Hill Tennis Center.
The No. 4 seed Flames, who led, 3-1, at one point in the match following victories from junior Alex Poynter (No. 5), junior Eddie Gutierrez (No. 3) and sophomore Chase Burton (No. 2), could not manage to close out the No. 5 seed Lancers. Longwood stormed back and edged Liberty on the strength of wins from Amadeo Blasco (No. 1), Daniel Hernandez (No. 6) and Julian Farthing (No. 4).
Farthing's three-set victory over Vince Salas on court four (6-7 (8) 6-3, 6-4) completed the comeback and sends Longwood to the semifinals, where the Lancers will face top-seeded Winthrop (12-7) on Tuesday at 10 a.m. The Eagles topped No. 8 seed Radford, 4-0, on Monday morning.
Liberty finishes its 2018 season with a 12-12 mark. The 12 wins were a five-win improvement from 2017 in head coach Derek Schwandt's first season at the helm. Longwood is now 13-8 following the victory.
The Lancers took the important doubles point to start the match for an early 1-0 lead. Their No. 2 duo, Jorge Godoy and Valentin Popescu, defeated Liberty's No. 2 pairing of Chase Burton and Sam Matheson, 6-0.
The other two doubles bouts both went to tiebreakers. On court three, Liberty's Eddie Gutierrez and Vince Salas were up, 5-2, on Daniel Hernandez and Julian Farthing of Longwood. However, the Lancers' duo came back and ended up forcing a tiebreaker with the Flames. At the same time, the Flames' top duo of Diego Castano and Alex Poynter were battling in a tiebreaker with Blasco and Raisei Sakai.
In the tiebreaker, Liberty had a match point, up 6-5, but the Lancers staved off defeated and eventually won, 10-8, for the 7-6 (8) win. The match on court three went unfinished following Blasco and Sakai's triumph for Longwood.
The singles session started favorably for the Flames. Liberty's Poynter cruised to a 6-2, 6-1 decision over Godoy in the No. 5 singles match, evening the match at 1-all. Less than 10 minutes later, Liberty's Gutierrez finished off Sakai (6-1, 6-0) on court three, which provided the Flames their first lead of the day (2-1).
Liberty's Burton, who was named to the Big South All-Conference Singles second team earlier in the day, bested Popescu in straight sets (7-5, 6-4) in the No. 2 singles bout. The sophomore from Naples, Fla., finished off his second season for Liberty with 23 singles wins and a seven-match winning streak to close out the year.
With Burton's win making it 3-1, Flames, Liberty needed to win one of the remaining three matches (No. 1, No. 4 or No. 6) in order to secure the victory. Longwood's top player, Blasco, got past the Flames' No. 1 competitor, Matheson, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3, trimming the deficit to 3-2 in the process.
On court six, Castano (Liberty) and Hernandez (Longwood) battled for around two hours in a two-set match. Hernandez won the first set, 7-6 (4), and led the second, 6-5, with two match point opportunities. Castano fought to stay alive, forcing another tiebreaker. In that tiebreaker, he led, 6-5, with a match point of his own. However, Hernandez took three straight points and the match, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (6).
Farthing defeated Salas for the second time this season and leads all Big South players in singles winning percentage (.857, 18-3 record) following his 12th victory in a row.
#5 Longwood 4, #4 Liberty 3 Singles competition 1. BLASCO, Amadeo (LWUM) def. MATHESON, Sam (LIBERTYM) 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 2. BURTON, Chase (LIBERTYM) def. POPESCU, Valentin (LWUM) 7-5, 6-4 3. GUTIERREZ, Eddie (LIBERTYM) def. SAKAI, Raisei (LWUM) 6-1, 6-0 4. FARTHING, Julian (LWUM) def. SALAS, Vince (LIBERTYM) 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 5. POYNTER, Alex (LIBERTYM) def. GODOY, Jorge (LWUM) 6-2, 6-1 6. HERNANDEZ, Daniel (LWUM) def. CASTANO, Diego (LIBERTYM) 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (8-6)
Doubles competition 1. BLASCO, Amadeo/SAKAI, Raisei (LWUM) def. POYNTER, Alex/CASTANO, Diego (LIBERTYM) 7-6 (10-8) 2. GODOY, Jorge/POPESCU, Valentin (LWUM) def. MATHESON, Sam/BURTON, Chase (LIBERTYM) 6-0 3. GUTIERREZ, Eddie/SALAS, Vince (LIBERTYM) vs. HERNANDEZ, Daniel/FARTHING, Julian (LWUM) 6-6, unfinished
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1); Singles (5,3,2,1,6,4) Big South Conference Championships - Match 2 No. 4 seed Liberty No. 5 seed Longwood T-3:18