The Liberty Flames men's tennis team captured a 4-3 win over Bluefield State in the second match of the day, Saturday night, at Crosswhite Athletic Club.
Following a 5-2 over King University earlier in the day, Liberty improves to 2-0 on the young season and 8-0 all-time against Bluefield State.
The Flames started the evening by sweeping the doubles matches and winning the first two singles matches. However, the Big Blues clawed back into the match with a pair of wins from the No. 2 and No. 4 positions and extended the final two matches of the night to three sets.
Ultimately, it was junior captain Diego Castano who sealed the overall win. The Statesville, N.C., native traded sets with BSC's Luca Ockernahl before taking the final set, 6-2, to win 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.
Liberty's Chase Burton and Max Borcuti earned the first victory of the night at No. 1 doubles, leading throughout on the way to a 6-2 win over the Big Blues' pairing of Anthony Braem and Alexandr Rudenco. Vince Salas and Castano followed suit by controlling their match in a 6-2 triumph over Giorgi Datashvili and Luca Ockernahl.
Sophomores Ryker Heller and Eddie Gutierrez had a more difficult path to victory. Leading 5-4 on Platon Gud and Guillermo Lopez, Heller served them to a 6-4 victory and an early 1-0 overall lead for the Flames.
Burton squared off with Braem in the No. 1 singles slot. In the first set, the two were tied, 5-5, before Burton won the final two games for a 7-5 victory. In the second set, the freshman led the senior throughout, building a 5-2 lead on the way to a 6-3 triumph and straight-set victory, 7-6, 6-3.
Burton paired up with Borcuti for a doubles win and also took care of business in straight sets at No. 1 singles against Bluefield State.
The Flames added to their lead with a No. 3 singles victory from Gutierrez over Gud, 7-5, 6-2. Trailing 5-4 in the first set, Gutierrez won the next three for a 7-5 win. He then dominated the second set in earning a 7-5, 6-2 victory, giving Liberty a 3-0 advantage in the match.
However, the momentum shifted to the Bluefield State side with a pair of three-set match victories. First, Datashvili knocked off Borcuti, 6-2, 5-7, 6-1, in the No. 4 slot. Borcuti trailed 4-1 in the second set before rallying to win six of the final seven games and force a third set. But it was Datasvili who prevailed with a 6-1 set three victory.
In similar fashion, Liberty's Salas fell in the first set to Gud before winning the second. Salas led, 5-3, in the third set, but Rudenco took the final four games to win, 6-3, 1-6, 7-5 and slice the Liberty lead to 3-2.
At No. 5, Castano and Ockernahl traded 6-4 results in the opening two sets, while at the same time, Heller and Panariti traded sets at No. 6. Castano stormed out to a 3-0 lead on Ockernahl and clinched the match with a 6-2 set three win and 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 overall triumph. Heller went on to lose to Panariti, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, bringing the final score to 4-3 for the home side.
"Two matches today really stretched our team mentally and physically," said Liberty Head Men's Tennis Coach Chris Johnson. "I was really proud of our young team for the way they gutted out each match. We look forward to working hard for James Madison, next week."
The Flames return to action next Saturday, when they host James Madison at 1 p.m. at the Crosswhite Athletic Club.