Trailing 3-2, the Bucs prevailed in the No. 2 and No. 5 singles matches for the victory. Charleston Southern's Sophie Cloessner tied the match at 3-3 with a two-set victory over Evangeline Crist (6-4, 6-3). In the No. 5 match, Valeria Koussenkova came back from a 5-1 deficit in the third set to defeat Emily Groeneveld, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6 (3), and win the match for CSU.
Charleston Southern (17-2) will move on to face No. 1 seed Winthrop (18-5) in tomorrow's championship match at noon. The Eagles bested No. 5 seed UNC Asheville, 4-0, in Saturday's other semifinal match in Winston-Salem. With the loss, Liberty (12-12), who shared the Big South regular-season crown with Charleston Southern and Winthrop, sees its 2016-17 season come to an end.
"I'm proud of how hard our girls battled today. They laid it on the line and put themselves in position to win the match," stated Liberty Women's Tennis Head Coach Jeff Maren. "Sometimes the ball doesn't bounce our way. It's the sad part of sports. But win or lose, we will continue to give God the glory. He is the reason we can play this game, and we'll be forever thankful for his leadership of our team."
The Bucs took the doubles point from the Lady Flames despite losing the first match to wrap up on court three. Liberty's senior tandem of Mariely Hassey and Emily Groeneveld knocked off Yana Morar and Kimberly Koerner on court three for the second time in eight days, this time winning, 6-2, for their fifth straight doubles win.
The turning point in that No. 3 match came with Liberty leading 3-2 but down, 40-0, in the next game. Hassey and Groeneveld rallied all the way back to break CSU's serve and take a 4-2 lead. The ensuing game also went to a deuce point, in which's Morar's shot sallied long, giving the Lady Flames a 5-2 edge. Hassey and Groeneveld closed out Morar and Koerner in the next game.
The No. 2 match featuring Liberty's Anna Dollar and Evangeline Crist and CSU's Mi'Kola Cooper and Valeria Koussenkova came down to the wire. The Lady Flames led, 3-2, early on before the Bucs won the next three to close in on victory. Dollar and Crist won the next game to make it 5-4, but CSU captured the 10th game of the set to win. Koussenkova's crosscourt backhanded shot from in front of the net gave her and Cooper a 6-4 triumph.
In the No. 1 match between Liberty's Rebekah Anderson/Eugenio Camacho and CSU's Sophie Cloessner/Nicolin Luecke, the Bucs' duo built a 5-2 lead before Anderson and Camacho closed the gap. Anderson served the Lady Flames back to 5-4, but CSU won the deciding point in the final game to capture the match, 6-4. Cloessner and Luecke's victory lifted the Bucs to a 1-0 advantage.
Needing to take four of six singles bouts to advance to the championship, Liberty fell into a 2-0 hole after Luecke ousted Anderson, 7-5, 6-0, in the No. 1 singles flight.
The Lady Flames responded from the early deficit with victories on courts four, six and three. Hassey notched her 20th singles victory of the year, upending Koerner in straight sets (6-3, 6-3) in the No. 4 match. The Liberty senior's victory trimmed the CSU lead in half, 2-1.
|Hassey won at both doubles and singles, Saturday vs. Charleston Southern.|
Cloessner and Koussenkova's victories over Crist and Groeneveld allowed the Bucs to beat the Lady Flames and enact revenge from the two teams' meeting eight days ago. Liberty topped CSU, 4-3, last Friday at the Cook Tennis Center in Lynchburg to give the Bucs their only Big South loss of 2017 and snap a 14-match winning streak that CSU held up to that point.