Jorge Azuero (left) and Head Coach Chris Johnson (right)
The Liberty men's tennis team plays its final nonconference match of the season tomorrow, facing North Carolina Central on the road, before jumping back into Big South action this weekend with matches versus Winthrop and Longwood. The Flames will host Winthrop on Saturday at 2 p.m. and travel to Longwood on Sunday for a 1 p.m. contest.
Leading up to the matches, Nick Pierce of the Liberty Flames Sports Network had a chance to catch up with Liberty head coach Chris Johnson. During the interview, Johnson recaps last week's matches and breaks down the team through the first half of the season. Johnson concludes the conversation with an outlook of this week's contests.
Liberty (6-7, 0-1 Big South) posted a 1-1 record last week, notching a 5-2 victory over James Madison, before falling in its Big South opener at Presbyterian College, 7-0. The Flames' victory over the Dukes was the first win for Liberty over its Commonwealth rival since the 2005 season. Saturday's loss at Presbyterian College dropped Liberty to 4-1 all-time against the Blue Hose.
The Flames are 2-0 all-time versus NCCU, 1-22 against Winthrop and 15-4 in contests against Longwood. Liberty faced each school most recently last season, defeating Longwood, 7-0, on Feb. 26 and NCCU, 4-0, on April 12 and falling, 4-3, at Winthrop on March 22.
Shea Thomas and Egon Samaai are both 7-5 in singles play to pace Liberty, while Samaai and partner Dillon Segur are a team-best 5-3 in doubles contests. No. 80-ranked Thomas and Jorge Azuero are tied for the team lead in doubles wins with five. Thomas needs one more doubles victory to Giancarlo Lemmi for the most career wins in program history. In singles victories, Thomas is five wins shy of tying Lemmi for second place on the all-time listing.
NCCU is riding a three-match winning streak, boosting its overall record to 5-8 this season. The Eagles are a perfect 2-0 at home, including its most recent match this past Saturday versus MEAC foe Howard, 4-3.
Winthrop enters the weekend with a 7-7 overall record and will face Longwood on Friday in its Big South opener before facing the Flames on Saturday. The Eagles have lost three out of their last four matches, with two of the setbacks coming against nationally ranked opponents. Winthrop has posted a 2-4 mark on the road this season.
Longwood holds a 1-11 overall record and a 0-3 Big South record heading into this weekend's matches. The Lancers have suffered eight setbacks in a row, with their lone win coming on Feb. 1 against Morgan State. Longwood has dropped four consecutive matches to the Flames.
Following this weekend's matches, Liberty will host three straight conference opponents, beginning on March 28 versus UNC Asheville at 1 p.m.