After losing two of their first three matches of the season, it appears the University of New Mexico has shed its early season woes.
In last weekend’s set of three matches, the Lobos beat Nebraska Omaha 5-2, Michigan State 4-0, and Drake University 4-3 to rack up three consecutive wins, and now they will try and extend their three-match unbeaten run to five matches out in California.
The Lobos (4-2) will first face the University of the Pacific (1-5) in Stockton, California, and then will head south to take on Santa Clara University (4-2) in Santa Clara, California.
Last year, the Lobos appeared to a have a “California curse,” as they were unable to beat a single team from California. The Lobos played Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, the University of San Francisco, UC Irvine, Fresno State twice, San Diego State twice—and lost in each encounter. Those nine losses accounted for just about 70% of UNM’s losses that season.
The Lobos ended the 2017 spring season 12-13, but this season the Lobos seem sharper; last season they lost their first four matches in a row and did not win their fourth match of the season until they had played ten matches. The Lobos have surpassed that statistic this season in nearly half as many matches.
The Lobos played the University of the Pacific twice in the 2016 season, and the Lobos won the first match 4-2 and lost the second 4-3.
The Tigers are coming off of a 7-0 loss to the University of Utah. Some of the Tiger’s recent poor form may be in part because of the absence of some key players due to illness, but regardless, the Tigers will be desperate to pick up some wins and turn their season around.
Santa Clara have had a similar start to the season as UNM. The Broncos lost their first two matches of the season to Yale and Florida Atlantic both by a score of 4-2, but since then they have picked up four wins in a row and have shut out each of their opponents.
UNM’s latest three victories though came with greater difficulty—most notably in the match against Drake University.
With all doubles and all but one singles match completed, the scored was level at 3-3. In the final singles match, UNM junior Ricky Hernandez-Tong battled with Drake junior Tom Hands, and in the third set, Hernandez-Tong found himself down 4-0.
But the UNM junior managed to fight back and win six games straight, winning the overall match for the Lobos.
UNM will play the University of the Pacific on Friday at 1:00 p.m. MDT, and will then take on the University of Santa Clara on Sunday at 11:00 MDT. UNM will be back at home the following week to face the University of Utah and UC Santa Barbara before the Mountain Pacific Invitational.
Matthieu Cartron is a sports beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers women’s soccer and men’s tennis. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @cartron_matt.