Flames Feature 4 on VaSID Men’s Tennis All-State Teams
The 2021 ASUN champion Liberty Flames men's tennis squad featured four honorees on the Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID) University Division Men's Tennis All-State teams.
The Flames' Nicaise Muamba and Rafael Marques Da Silva both received VaSID All-State singles first team recognition. Liberty's Deji Thomas-Smith earned a spot on the VaSID All-State singles second team, while Thomas-Smith and his doubles partner Christiaan Worst landed on the VaSID All-State doubles second team.
This is Muamba's second career VaSID All-State singles first team honor, as he also received the award in 2019. Marques Da Silva, Thomas-Smith and Worst are all being recognized by VaSID for the first time in their respective careers. This is the first time in program history that the Flames have featured four different VaSID All-State honorees. Muamba and Marques Da Silva's first team recognition marks the second time in the last three seasons that Liberty has featured a pair of first team honorees.
Muamba was named 2021 ASUN Player of the Year, his second career ASUN Player of the Year honor (other: 2019). The junior also earned ASUN All-Conference first team distinction for the second time in his career and was a three-time ASUN Player of the Week this season.
Muamba was nationally ranked in singles six times this year and reached as high as No. 82 on March 30. The Laval, Quebec, Canada native is the only player in school history to garner a national singles ranking in three different seasons.
Muamba was 4-1 against nationally-ranked competition and finished the year as the No. 5-ranked singles player in the ITA Atlantic Region. His ranked wins were over No. 57 Siem Woldeab (Texas), No. 90 Henry Lieberman (Charlotte), No. 115 Garrett Johns (Duke) and No. 122 Maxime Lapraille (Florida Atlantic).
Marques Da Silva, a freshman, was the ASUN Championship MVP and also earned ASUN All-Conference first team honors as well as ASUN All-Freshman team and ASUN All-Tournament team recognition. The Flames' leader in singles wins with 19 and a four-time ASUN Player of the Week (most in the conference), Marques Da Silva finished the year as the 13th-ranked player in the ITA Atlantic Region Rankings and had one ranked singles win on the year. He defeated Charlotte's No. 88 Ignasi de Rueda on April 11.
Marques Da Silva finished the year with a 9-2 mark at No. 2 singles and also had a pair of victories at No. 1 singles, six triumphs in the No. 3 slot in the lineup and four victories in the No. 4 position. The native of São Paulo, Brazil earned ASUN Championship MVP accolades on the strength of his 6-0 mark at the tournament (3-0 No. 2 singles, 3-0 No. 3 doubles).
Thomas Smith, who hails from London, United Kingdom, was an ASUN All-Conference first team and ASUN All-Tournament team recipient. The freshman clinched the ASUN title, a 4-0 Liberty victory over FGCU on April 24, with his 7-5, 6-4 victory over Felipe Ramirez on court four.
The ASUN Player of the Week on March 24, Thomas-Smith was third on the team with 15 singles wins and sported a 4-0 mark at No. 2 singles and claimed five victories in the No. 4 position. He finished the season strong with six wins in his last eight matches.
Thomas-Smith and Worst were selected as the ASUN Doubles Pair of the Year and finished the season as the No. 6-ranked doubles unit in the ITA Atlantic Region. The duo helped the Flames win the most crucial doubles match of the year, a 7-6 (4) triumph over FGCU's Magnus Johnson and Max Damm in the ASUN Championship title match on court one. Their victory put Liberty ahead 1-0 in the match in an eventual 4-0 shutout victory over the Eagles.
Thomas-Smith and Worst finished second on the squad with 10 doubles wins, seven of which came in the No. 1 slot. They held a 7-4 record in the No. 1 position and won seven of their final 10 matches.
Liberty finished the 2021 campaign with a school-record 20 victories on the way to winning its first-ever conference title, the ASUN crown. It was a year of milestones for the Flames, as they broke into the national rankings as a team for the first time at No. 43 in the nation on March 24. Liberty closed out the season with a program-best No. 39 national ranking (May 26).
2021 VaSID All-State Men's Tennis University Division
VaSID Player of the Year – Carl Söderlund (Virginia)
VaSID Rookie of the Year – Jeffrey von der Schulenberg (Virginia)
VaSID Coach of the Year – Andres Pedroso (Virginia)
VaSID All-State First Team
Lleyton Cronje (VCU)
Rafael Marques Da Silva (Liberty)
Nicaise Muamba (Liberty)
Carl Söderlund (Virginia)
Rayane Stable (VCU)
Jeffrey von der Schulenberg (Virginia)
Jordan Chrysostom/Ryan Fishback (Virginia Tech)
Chris Rodesch/Ryan Goetz (Virginia)
Carl Söderlund/William Woodall (Virginia)
VaSID All-State Second Team
Andres Alcaraz (Norfolk State)
Aditya Balsekar (Radford)
Charles Bertimon (VCU)
Ryan Goetz (Virginia)
Mitch Harper (Virginia Tech)
Holden Koons (James Madison)
Iñaki Montes (Virginia)
Deji Thomas-Smith (Liberty)
Brenden Volk (William & Mary)
Luca Maldoner/Nicola Vidal (Old Dominion)
Deji Thomas-Smith/Christiaan Worst (Liberty)
Jeffrey von der Schulenburg/ Iñaki Montes (Virginia)