Patience paying off



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Butler graduate Matt Slamecka helped Liberty University post the men's tennis program's first-ever win over a nationally-ranked opponent recently. 
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LYNCHBURG, Va. — If Matt Slamecka went looking for a challenge, he found it. 
The 2010
Butler graduate played No. 1 singles on the Golden Tornado tennis team when it won the PIAA championship two years ago. 
He went on to Division III Penn State-Behrend to major in engineering and was the No. 1 singles player there as well. 
But something was missing. 
“I always wanted to play Division I college tennis,” Slamecka said. “I yearned for that competition.” 
He learned that
Liberty University's men's tennis team had temporarily lost a player to illness and had an opening on its roster. So Slamecka transferred down there in January of 2011. 
“I respect Matt for that,”
Liberty coach Chris Johnson said. “He was a big fish in a small pond who aspired for more. You can't fault a kid for that. 
“He could have stayed up there and remained as the No. 1 singles playerwithout ever spending a day in the weight room. Down here, he had to adhere to a whole new commitment level.” 
Slamecka had to hit the weight room and continually work on his game just to stay in the mix at
“You have to compete for every single match you get,” Slamecka said. “It's intense. I was forced to elevate my game.” 
The pay-off for doing so came recently. 
Slamecka won his first two singles matches for
Liberty, posting a 6-1, 6-0 win in a 7-0 Flames' triumph over Oral Roberts, then scoring a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 6 singles against nationally-ranked Oklahoma State. 
Slamecka also teamed with Stanislav Vaughan to post an 8-2 doubles victory over the Cowboys.
Liberty won that match overall, 4-3. 
It marked the 25-year program's first-ever win over a nationally-ranked team. 
“Those were indoor matches (
University of Tulsa's Case Tennis Center) and the coaches felt I played better indoors than one of our regulars, so they put me in the lineup,” Slamecka said. “To play a role in such a big upset and a landmark win for the program was a great feeling.” 
Slamecka has no idea what the future holds in terms of his playing time at
He's just thrilled to be there. 
A torn UCL in his elbow — suffered during his junior year at
Butler — caused him to miss six months of national tournaments and five months of tennis in general. Slamecka was ranked among the top 200 in the country by USTA before the injury. 
“I figured I was done in terms of any hope of playing Division I,” Slamecka said. “I did physical therapy for a good three and a half months. 
“Just being able to play at this level ... I can't even describe how that feels.” 
Johnson has nine players on the
Liberty roster “and they can all play,” he said. 
“Matt has done a great job getting physically stronger since he's been here. As hard as he swings at the ball, he needed to do that,” Johnson said. “His weapons are much better now. 
“With each match, all of these guys are improving. We're always trying to get the right mixture out there.” 
The Flames have three seniors on their roster. Slamecka will be a junior in terms of eligibility next year. 
“I don't know what to expect in terms of the lineup,” Slamecka said. “My job is to be ready to play when called upon.” 
That may be more and more often. 
“The commitment to excelling in tennis heregoes beyond on-court stuff,” Johnson said. “Matt's relishing all of it. He's worked so hard to make his game better and it's really cool to see.”