In the first home game and third match of the season, the University of New Mexico fell to Northern Arizona University 4-3 at the McKinnon Family Tennis Center.
In the early stages of the match, it was UNM that struck first.
The doubles pair, sophomore Ricky Hernandez-Tong and sophomore Dominic West, beat senior Felix Schumann and senior Sebastian Eguez 6-1 on court 2, and soon after, UNM seniors Bart Van Leijsen and Jorge Escutia gifted UNM the doubles point with a narrow 7-6 (7-2) victory on court 1 over juniors Tim Handel and Ruben Montano.
Both sides traded wins and losses in singles play. On court 5, NAU’s Eguez defeated Stepan Holis in two sets 6-3, 6-2, but Escutia then put the Lobos back in front with a 6-4, 6-0 win against Schumann on court 4.
After the next two matches, the Lumberjacks would take the lead.
On court 1, Handel beat Hernandez-Tong 7-5, 6-4, and on court 3, NAU’s junior Thomas Fisher beat West 7-6 (7-4), 6-2. After the back-to-back singles wins, the Lumberjacks needed only one more point to secure the overall victory.
But the Lobos hung on.
On court 2, Van Leijsen kept the Lobos in the match, pulling them level with the Lumberjacks after a marginal 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 win over junior Lucas Taylor.
The final result came down to the match on court 6 between UNM senior Sean Baklini and NAU’s Montano. Baklini won the first set 6-4, but Ruben fought back to take the second set by the same score. Neither player backed down, but in the third set tiebreak, Ruben edged Baklini 7-4, gifting NAU the overall victory.
“At 3-3 we were all tied up with one match left, and Ruben (Montano) put it all on the line,” NAU head coach Ki Kroll said in a release. “He showed the heart of this team — what a great moment.”
The 4-3 win against the Lobos was the first match of the season for NAU. Last season, the Lobos beat NAU 5-2 at the beginning of March, just before the start of Mountain West play.
The Lobos (1-2) will travel to Des Moines, Iowa, to play back-to-back games Saturday on neutral ground against Nebraska Omaha (1-2) and Michigan State (2-3).
Nebraska is coming off of a 4-3 win against St. Louis, and before they play against UNM, they will take on Creighton University.
Michigan State is winless in their previous three matches — losing out to Notre Dame, Princeton and Vanderbilt — and they will face off with Drake University before they play against UNM.
The match between UNM and Nebraska Omaha is set to begin at 8 a.m. MT, and the following match between UNM and Michigan State will begin at 1 p.m. MT.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cartron_matt.