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Tennis team to end home slate

Alekhova faces uphill battle as she nears all-time win record at UNM

The 46th-ranked UNM women’s tennis team will play its final home matches of the season against the University of Hawaii today and the University of South Florida Sunday.

The Lobos (11-6 overall, 4-1 Mountain West Conference) have won four straight matches, with their most recent win coming over the University of Wyoming April 1.

The home matches will also be the last for seniors Natalia Alekhova, who plays in the number one position, and Belen, N.M., native Nicoleta Spilca, who plays in the number six position.

UNM head coach Kathy Kolankiewicz will lose her second number one player in as many years and said Alekhova will be tough to replace.

“I don’t care what anyone says, any time you lose a number one player it’s hard to expect for someone to immediately fill their shoes,” Kolankiewicz said.

Alekhova is on pace to surpass Ana Friganovic in the UNM record books.

Friganovic recorded 113 career wins between 1996-2000, and with Alekhova at 106 wins, she has a chance of tying or surpassing her record.

“It’s going to be tough for her to break the record because her next eight matches are going to be tough,” Kolankiewicz said. “There’s never an easy match.”

Alekhova leads the team with 18 singles wins, but she’s also dropped 10 matches, which Kolankiewicz said was uncharacteristic of her.

“She’s been frustrated and I think it shows in her game,” Kolankiewicz said. “She, record-wise, has had her toughest year ever.”

The team’s underclassmen have performed well recently, including freshman Lindsey Marvel, who is currently riding a five-game winning streak, and junior Courtney Choate, who has won her last eight. In addition, freshman Tjasa Suvak and Sandy Lukowski have played well as of late. Marvel, Suvak and Lukowski went 5-1 last weekend in singles action and have combined for a 44-31 record this year.

“The freshman have been terrific,” Kolankiewicz said. “We have two in the top ten, and they’ve been helping us to remain competitive.”

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In facing Hawaii and South Florida this weekend, Kolankiewicz said the team would have its hands full.

“They are two solid teams and should be pretty tough,” Kolankiewicz said. “Hawaii’s not ranked, but South Florida has been ranked as high as in the 30s. They don’t have a good record right now because they’ve played such a good schedule.”

The Lobos are currently perched in second place in the Mountain West, trailing only Brigham Young University, which is undefeated in conference play. UNM dropped its only match to BYU earlier this year.

“We’re 4-1, but we haven’t played the next-best two teams,” Kolankiewicz said. “If we have a good showing in the next three weeks, we should stay in second place.”

The Lobos will play third-place San Diego State University April 13 and fifth-place University of Nevada at Las Vegas April 14.

With the Mountain West Championship coming up on April 26-28, Kolankiewicz said she hoped her team was peaking at the right time.

“Our goal is winning the conference this year,” Kolankiewicz said. “I told the girls that I hoped that we would reach our peak in conference play, and I think we’re heading in the right direction.”

Kolankiewicz said this weekend’s matches were scheduled to take place at UNM’s outdoor tennis courts, weather permitting. She said if the weather is bad, the matches would be moved inside.

There will be a ceremony honoring Spilca and Alekhova between the singles and doubles matches Sunday.

Admission is free to the public.

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