Lovato picked up her second singles victory of the spring on Saturday against MTSU.
The Liberty women's tennis team lost for the first time this season, falling 4-3 to Middle Tennessee in a neutral site bout at the FGCU Tennis Complex on Saturday.
The Lady Flames wrap up opening weekend with a 1-1 record. The Blue Raiders are 1-0 after the victory. Saturday's contest marked the first-ever meeting between the two schools in women's tennis.
The match, which lasted nearly four hours, was tied up at 3-3 and featured a third set on court five to decide the outcome. In that contest, Middle Tennessee's Muskan Gupta led Liberty freshman Micaela Ode Mitre 5-2 in the final set. Ode Mitre battled back to even the set at 5-all, but Gupta took the next two games and the match 6-7 (4), 6-2, 7-5 to give MTSU the win.
Middle Tennessee 4, Liberty 3
Singles Competition 1. Kalani Soli (LIBERTYW) def. Lee Barnard (MT) 6-2, 6-1 2. Alexandra Almborg (LIBERTYW) def. Zani Barnard (MT) 6-3, 7-5 3. Esther Lovato (LIBERTYW) def. Lidia Burrows (MT) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 4. Marta Peris Herrero (MT) def. Tiffany Nguyen (LIBERTYW) 6-3, 6-4 5. Muskan Gupta (MT) def. Micaela Ode Mitre (LIBERTYW) 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 7-5 6. Noelle Mauro (MT) def. Grace Hashiguchi (LIBERTYW) 7-5, 6-0
Doubles Competition 1. Lee Barnard/Zani Barnard (MT) def. Tiffany Nguyen/Micaela Ode Mitre (LIBERTYW) 7-6 (7-4) 2. Kalani Soli/Eloise Saraty (LIBERTYW) def. Marta Peris Herrero/Lidia Burrows (MT) 7-6 (9-7) 3. Noelle Mauro/Muskan Gupta (MT) def. Esther Lovato/Alexandra Almborg (LIBERTYW) 6-2
Middle Tennessee 1-0 Liberty 1-1 Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (1,2,6,4,3,5)
Thoughts From Head Coach Jeff Maren "We had our chances in doubles and several opportunities in singles but couldn't convert. MTSU is a very good team. They kept the pressure on us throughout the matches. We will learn a lot from this one and get better as a result. I'm very proud of how hard we fought today. We never gave up. To God be the glory!"
How It Happened • The Blue Raiders won the crucial doubles point as junior sisters Lee and Zani Barnard topped Liberty's Tiffany Nguyen and Micaela Ode Mitre in a tiebreaker 7-6 (4) in the No. 1 match to seize a 1-0 lead. • MTSU's pairing of Noelle Mauro and Muskan Gupta got the Blue Raiders off to a strong start on court three with a 6-2 triumph over their counterparts Esther Lovato and Alexandra Almborg. • Liberty's one doubles win came from Kalani Soli and Eloise Saraty on court two. The duo was victorious for a second straight day, defeating Marta Peris Herrero and Lidia Burrows by a 7-6 (7) score. • The Lady Flames squandered four match point opportunities in doubles. • The two teams split the six singles matches, with Liberty winning the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 matches and Middle Tennessee taking the No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 matches. • The Lady Flames' Soli earned a straight-sets (6-2, 6-1) decision over Lee Barnard, evening the match at 1-1. Liberty's Almborg provided the team a 2-1 lead with her 6-3, 7-5 decision over Zani Barnard on court two. • The Blue Raiders bounced back with victories on courts six and four to claim a 3-2 lead. In the No. 6 match, Mauro knocked off Liberty junior Grace Hashiguchi 7-5, 6-0. Peris Herrero's 6-3, 6-4 victory against Nguyen (No. 4 singles) pushed MTSU into the lead, 3-2. • Lady Flames freshman Esther Lovato collected her team-best 11th singles victory of the 2019-20 campaign. The Austin, Texas, native took down Burrows in three sets (6-4, 4-6, 6-3) at No. 3 singles to even the match prior to Gupta sealing the match for MTSU.
Next Up • Liberty will return home to face the Georgetown Hoyas (0-1) a week from today (Jan. 25). First serve is slated for 1 p.m. at Crosswhite Athletic Club in Lynchburg. • This will be the second-ever meeting between the two programs. The Hoyas topped the Lady Flames 7-0 in Liberty's season opener in 2012.