We continue our look back at the 10 moments that defined Liberty athletics this past season. Today, we look at Nos. 8 and 7 with a men’s tennis player who exceeded expectations in his first season with the program, and a team that finally got over the hump in postseason play.

8. Muamba enjoys stellar debut season at Liberty

Liberty men’s tennis coach Derek Schwandt knew the type of player he was getting when Nicaise Muamba announced he was transferring to the Flames from Tennessee.

The sophomore, though, likely exceeded all of Schwandt’s expectations in his first season on campus. Muamba dominated competition at No. 1 singles, including a victory over a ranked opponent at the beginning of the spring season, and became the second player in program history to advance to the NCAA men’s tennis singles championship.

Muamba was named the ASUN Conference men’s tennis player of the year and was ranked in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) top 125 seven times during the season, and finished the season ranked 114th.

He also became the first player in program history to be ranked in both singles and doubles in early March. He was ranked 109th in singles and 61st in doubles with Chase Burton.

Muamba posted an overall singles record of 26-13. He fell in straight sets to Southern Cal’s Brandon Holt, the nation’s sixth-ranked player, in the first round of the national championship.

7. Men’s golf advances to national championship

For the past three season, the men’s golf team at Liberty had the big hitters off the tees, the strong players in the fairways, and the accurate touches on the greens to compete against some of the best teams in the nation. For one reason or another, the Flames were unable to put together three rounds in regional play to advance to the NCAA national championship.

That changed this past spring when it all came together over three days in Athens, Georgia.

Liberty advanced to the national championship for the first time since 2012, and the Flames finished 20th in the team standings.

Gabe Lench, who graduated in May, became the first player in program history to advance to the final round of stroke play. He finished 24th overall in singles play, the best individual finish for a Liberty golfer at the national championship.

The strong performances from the team this season landed Jeff Thomas his fourth coach of the year honor from the Virginia Sports Information Directors (VaSID), and Lench and Ervin Chang were honorable mention selections on the PING All-America teams.

Chang, a rising senior, was named the ASUN male student-athlete of the year and the conference’s men’s golf scholar-athlete of the year.

Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.

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