Back-to-Back Champs: Liberty Tops FGCU 4-2 for Second Straight ASUN Title
No. 67 Liberty topped host and top seed No. 71 FGCU 4-2 in Sunday’s ASUN Championship final at the FGCU Tennis Complex to earn its second conference title in a row.
The No. 3 seed Flames have secured the ASUN’s automatic berth into the 2022 Division I Men’s Tennis Championship, which will begin on May 6. Liberty will find out who it faces in the first round of the NCAA Tournament when the 2022 NCAA Men’s Tennis Selection Show airs on May 2 at 6 p.m. on NCAA.com.
The Flames’ title is its second in as many years and second in program history. Liberty won its first conference title, the ASUN crown, exactly one year ago today.
Liberty improves to 13-10 on the year, has captured five straight matches overall and has won three straight matches against ranked opponents. The Flames swept No. 2 seed/No. 75 Kennesaw State 4-0 in yesterday’s semifinals and topped No. 6 seed Jacksonville state in Friday’s quarterfinal round.
FGCU drops to 15-7 on the year after losing to Liberty in what was a rematch of the 2021 ASUN Men’s Championship title match.
Liberty’s Nicaise Muamba and Josh Wilson were both selected to the ASUN All-Tournament team, with the senior Muamba earning ASUN Championship MVP honors.
Wilson set a new program record on Sunday, as he won his 29th singles match of the 2021-22 campaign. The junior knocked off ASUN Player of the Year Magnus Johnson of FGCU in straight sets (6-4, 6-4) at No. 1 singles to secure the record. Coming into the day, Wilson shared the record with former Flame Sam Matheson, who claimed 28 victories during the 2015-16 campaign.
Liberty’s Thando Longwe-Smit dropped his opening set 6-1 to Juan Lopez at No. 6 singles but rebounded to edge Lopez in a tiebreaker in the second, 7-6 (1).
Longwe-Smit led 4-1 in the third and took a 5-1 lead with a deuce point ace. Up 5-2, here is how the final game unfolded, with Longwe-Smit serving.
• 0-15 – Longwe-Smit forehand long/out (Lopez point)
• 15-15 – Lopez backhand into net (Longwe-Smit point)
• 15-30 – Lopez forehand winner down the line (Lopez point)
• 30-30 – Lopez forehand wide (Longwe-Smit point)
• 30-40 – Longwe-Smit forehand shot off top of net/stayed on his side (Lopez point)
• 40-40 – Lopez forehand into net (Longwe-Smit point)
• Match/Championship Point – Longwe-Smit backhand slice (Longwe-Smit point)
• Thando Longwe-Smit defeats Juan Lopez 1-6, 7-6 (1), 6-2
#67 Liberty 4, #71 FGCU 2
- Josh Wilson (LIBERTYM) def. JOHNSON, Magnus (FGCUM) 6-4, 6-4
- Nicaise Muamba (LIBERTYM) def. WILSON, Randy (FGCUM) 6-2, 6-1
- SEPULVEDA, Marcelo (FGCUM) vs. R. Marques Da Silva (LIBERTYM) 4-6, 6-3, 2-5, unfinished
- Christiaan Worst (LIBERTYM) def. MONTES, Juan (FGCUM) 6-2, 6-2
- STEFANACCI, Gugli (FGCUM) def. Deji Thomas-Smith (LIBERTYM) 6-0, 6-2
- Thando Longwe-Smit (LIBERTYM) def. LOPEZ, Juan (FGCUM) 1-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-2
- DAMM, Max/JOHNSON, Magnus (FGCUM) def. Nicaise Muamba/R. Marques Da Silva (LIBERTYM) 6-3
- Christiaan Worst/Josh Wilson (LIBERTYM) def. SEPULVEDA, Marcelo/MONTES, Juan (FGCUM) 6-2
- WILSON, Randy/ONCINS, Eric (FGCUM) def. Deji Thomas-Smith/Zion Heaven (LIBERTYM) 6-3
Liberty 13-10; National ranking #67
FGCU 15-7; National ranking #71
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (5,2,4,1,6)
2022 ASUN Men’s Tennis Championship Final
Official: Bob Booth T-3:01 A-352
How It Happened
• In a reversal from the first meeting, FGCU won the doubles point from Liberty to jump out to an early 1-0 advantage. The Eagles scored the first singles point of the contest (No. 5 singles) to go ahead 2-0, but the Flames’ No. 2, No. 4, No. 1 and No. 6 singles players were all victorious in leading the guests to the ASUN title.
• The Eagles took the early lead with wins at No. 3 and No. 1 doubles. Their No. 3 unit, Randy Wilson and Eric Oncins, broke a 3-3 tie with Deji Thomas-Smith and Zion Heaven on the way to a 6-3 triumph.
• Liberty countered with its No. 2 pairing, Wilson and Christiaan Worst. The Flames duo built up a commanding 4-1 lead against Juan Montes and Marcelo Sepulveda and won 6-2. Wilson and Worst bolster their doubles mark to 8-1, this spring.
• FGCU’s Max Damm and Magnus Johnson clinched the doubles session for the hosts, taking down ASUN Doubles Pair of the Year Muamba and Rafael Marques Da Silva 6-3. The Eagles duo led 4-3 and dug itself out of a 40-15 hole to take a 5-3 lead in an eventual victory.
• The Eagles’ lone singles point came from Guglielmo Stefanacci on court five, a 6-0 6-2 winner over Thomas-Smith which put the home side ahead 2-0 at the time.
• ASUN Championship MVP Muamba was even at 2-all in the first set of his No. 2 singles match with Wilson of FGCU before winning 10 of the final 12 games in a 6-2, 6-2 decision.
• Liberty’s Worst (No. 4 singles) won his third singles contest of the weekend (each were in straight sets). The junior downed Montes 6-2, 6-2 (trailed 2-1 in the second) to even the score of the match at 2-all.
• Wilson of the Flames trailed 4-3 in the first set with Johnson on court one. The Liberty junior captured the next three games to take the opening set and built up a 4-1 lead in the second. Johnson took three of the next four games to close within a game, 5-4. Serving for the match, Wilson trailed 30-0 but rattled off four points in a row for the critical 6-4, 6-4 win and a 3-2 Liberty lead.
• The final two matches, No. 3 and No. 6 singles, both went to third sets. Liberty’s Longwe-Smit (No. 6) broke serve twice for a 4-0 advantage and eventual 5-1 edge over Lopez, while Marques Da Silva (No. 3) broke serve at a deuce point for a 4-2 lead against Sepulveda.
• Longwe-Smit’s come-from-behind three-set win (1-6, 7-6 (1), 6-2) gave the Flames the fourth point and the conference title.
• Marques Da Silva led 5-2 in the third set when his match was stopped due to Longwe-Smit’s triumph.
Inside The Numbers
• ASUN Championship MVP Muamba was 2-0 at No. 2 singles and 2-1 at No. 1 doubles this weekend. All-Tournament team member Wilson posted a 2-0 No. 1 singles mark and 2-0 No. 2 doubles mark.
• Worst led the Flames with five total victories over the past three days, going 3-0 at No. 4 singles and 2-0 at No. 2 doubles with Wilson. The junior from Pretoria, South Africa paces all Liberty players with a 17-5 singles mark, this spring.
• This is the second straight year in which Longwe-Smit earned an important point in the No. 6 singles point. In 2021, the Cape Town, South Africa native knocked off FGCU’s Alessandro Conca 6-4, 6-4 to give the Flames a 3-0 lead in the eventual 4-0 victory. He is the only Liberty player to earn points in singles in both the 2021 and 2022 ASUN finals.
• Between ASUN regular season and postseason play, the Flames have won nine straight conference matches.
• Liberty went a combined 10-1 (.909) in singles and 5-2 (.714) in doubles at this year’s ASUN Championship.
• Liberty is 6-0 over the last two seasons at the ASUN Championship. In those six wins, the Flames have outscored their foes 24-3.
• Liberty is 6-1 all-time in ASUN Tournament play – 3-0 in 2022, 3-0 in 2021 and 0-1 in 2019.
• The Flames earn their second all-time win against the FGCU Eagles, with both coming in ASUN title matches (other: 2021). Liberty avenged a 4-3 regular season loss to the Eagles 35 days ago at the FGCU Tennis Complex (March 20).
• Liberty will start getting ready for the 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Team Championship. The 2022 NCAA Men’s Tennis Selection Show will be held on May 2 at 6 p.m. on NCAA.com.