The UNM men’s tennis team went winless in Nona, Florida to start the season, but seem optimistic as it travels to the west coast Saturday.

New Mexico went 0-3 against some stiff competition a couple of weekends ago, falling to No. 23 Texas Tech, Arizona and Central Florida, although head coach Ben Dunbar said the matches were much closer than the score indicated.

He said the team lost three close matches against really good opponents, but they competed hard and saw some good things.

“The guys are going to get better from the experiences we’ve had — we’re right there.” Dunbar said.

One thing that hurt the cause was the Lobos failure to notch the all-important doubles’ point in two of the first three matches of the season.

Junior Bart Van Leijsen said things could have been different if they were able to secure that point, something he hopes the team can do this time around against UCLA, which is No. 6 in the ITA rankings.

“We need to focus a little better on the doubles point,” he said. “I think the doubles point will be key…and if a few things fall our way, we can beat them.”

Van Leijsen is one of six returners from last year’s roster and well-rounded singles and doubles player. He and freshman Dominic West of Nottingham, England paired together to win 6-2 over Kory Lovett and Kalman Boyd of Central Florida.

But the team wasn’t able to capitalize against UCF after taking the first doubles match, dropping the next two in tiebreakers as the lone point slipped through its fingers.

Dunbar said West also played well in singles play, though he made some “freshman mistakes.” But if the Lobos can get solid play from the four through six positions in singles, then the team should be in great shape.

The other incoming freshman, Lawrence Perrin, won’t be eligible to play until next month. Dunbar said he will be a big asset as well and both newcomers will be exciting for Lobo fans to watch over the next four years.

Sophomore Ricky Hernandez-Tong had a successful freshman campaign and could be one of the bright spots on the team if he continues to build on his game and could help the new additions during their transition.

Hernandez-Tong garnered the first singles point on the season for the team by defeating Boyd in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2. But that was the only point the team could muster, falling 4-1 to UCF.

UCLA has gotten off to a hot start, blanking its first opponent, Grand Canyon, 7-0. The team followed that performance up with a 5-2 victory over UC-Santa Barbara.

The Bruins dropped the doubles point, but responded to take five of the six singles points to win the match. UCLA features three of the nation’s top-100 singles players in the ITA rankings, a release said.

Saturday’s action begins in Los Angeles, California against UCLA at 3 p.m. and the team will face either Lamar or Boise State on Sunday.

The winner of the four-team qualifier will return for a chance to compete in the ITA Team Indoor Championships.

Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers football and men’s and women’s tennis. He can be reached at or on Twitter @robert_maler.