Sunday, February 5, 2017

Liberty Wins Comeback Thriller, 4-3, over ETSU

The Liberty women's tennis team faced a 3-0 deficit to visiting East Tennessee State, but rallied to win the final four singles contests and the match, 4-3, Saturday at the Crosswhite Athletic Club.

Liberty dropped the doubles point and No. 1 and No. 2 singles matches, before reeling off wins at No. 3-6 singles to emerge victorious.

With the victory, the Lady Flames improve to 2-0, while the Bucs fall to 2-2 on the year.

"Our girls showed maturity and the ability to play within themselves today," said Liberty Head Women's Tennis Coach Jeff Maren. "ETSU is a very good team, well-coached and difficult to beat. So I'm very proud of our efforts today."

The morning started with ETSU taking the doubles point that came down to a tiebreaker at No. 2 doubles.

The No. 3 Liberty team of seniors Mariely Hassey and Emily Groeneveld led 3-2 early and won the next three games for a 6-2 victory over Jayde Viccars and Maria Esguerra.

At No. 1 doubles, the Bucs' pairing of Marina Espana and Ioanna Markesini controlled their match against the Lady Flames' Evangeline Crist and Anna Dollar on the way to a 6-2 victory.

The decisive No. 2 doubles match between sophomores Rebekah Anderson and Aleksandra Panchenko and Alory Pereira and Yi Chi Ma decided the point. Liberty's duo trailed, 4-2, but they won three straight games to go up, 5-4.

ETSU won the next two to lead, 6-5, and had two match points, but Anderson and Panchenko staved off defeat to tie the match at 6-6 and force a tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Pereira and Ma prevailed, 7-3, for a 7-6 (7-3) win to give the Bucs the doubles point.

In singles, play Espana led throughout her match with Panchenko on the way to a straight-set victory, 6-2, 6-0 at No. 2 singles. At No. 1 singles, No. 95 Markesini bested Anderson, 7-5, 6-1, to give the Bucs a 3-0 cushion.

In the No. 5 slot, Groeneveld cruised to a 6-2 set one victory over Esguerra and needed a tiebreaker in the second set to win, 6-2, 7-6 (7-1). Moments later, Crist knocked off Ma at No. 4 singles, 6-4, 6-2, to cut the Bucs' lead to 3-2 and leave the outcome to be decided by the No. 3 and No. 6 matches.

At No. 3, Dollar took the first set, 6-2, from Pereira, but Pereira won narrowly, 7-5, in the second set to force a third set. Dollar built a 4-1 lead in the deciding set and captured the match on a cross-court winner for a 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 victory.

Hassey, who was the last Liberty player to begin singles, squared off with Djurdjevic in the crucial sixth singles match. After winning set one, 6-4, Hassey rolled to a 6-0 second set win and 6-4, 6-0 triumph to give the Lady the deciding fourth point.

Hassey (right) and Groeneveld (left) won at No. 3 doubles, and both players won their singles matches to help Liberty to a 4-3 victory.
The victory was Liberty's first-ever over East Tennessee State after the Bucs took the first four matches in the all-time series.

The Lady Flames will head to Louisville (5-0) for a noon match on Sunday at the Bass-Rudd Tennis Center.

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