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Courtesy: UNM Men's Tennis Team

Courtesy: UNM Men's Tennis Team

Men’s Tennis: Lobos Sweep in Utah

Three straight road wins help to recover their season's rocky start

In a whirlwind of a weekend for the UNM men’s tennis team, the Lobos faced three of their most difficult regional opponents on the road in Utah — and came out on top.

New Mexico (4-5) surged to the three-match win streak by topping BYU on Friday, Nebraska on Saturday and finally Utah on Sunday.

The Lobos were 1-5 coming into the weekend, a record that the team hoped to improve.

UNM head coach Ben Dunbar believed it was only a matter of time before the squad’s hard work and commitment would begin to translate into victories — and it appears that is exactly what happened over the weekend.

The Lobos started play in Provo, Utah against BYU on Friday and conceded the doubles point after the Cougars took matches at the No. 2 and No. 3 positions.

Trailing 1-0 in the team score, the Lobos managed to recover from the early setback with some good singles play, though the score remained tight throughout the match.

Lobo freshman Lawrence Perrin and sophomore Ricky Hernandez-Tong lost their singles matches to put the Lobos on the brink of defeat.

But Dominic West, Bart Van Leijsen and Rodolfo Jauregui managed to triumph to bring the Lobos storming back. The victories tied the team score at 3-3.

The BYU tennis facility only had four available courts, so the final singles match between UNM junior Jorge Escutia and BYU freshman Sam Tullis didn’t take place until after the grueling match between Van Leijsen and BYU senior Keaton Cullimore was completed.

Like many of the matches played earlier between the two sides that day, Escutia’s match was a thriller. After more than two hours of match play, he was able to pull out the victory, winning the match 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 7-6 (7-4).

The result earned the Lobos an overall 4-3 win on the day, but the duration of the match was lengthy and the team still had to travel to face two more teams.

Dunbar said that the long match resulted in a 12:15 a.m. arrival time into Salt Lake City, Utah — but the trip was probably much more enjoyable following a win.

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“It was probably the longest and most epic college tennis match I’ve ever been a part of,” Dunbar said. “The match actually took six hours and 14 minutes, and three of the four singles matches ended up being decided in third-set tie breaks.”

In the early Saturday afternoon match, the Lobos faced off against Nebraska. Despite an exhausting match the previous day and athletes playing on what must have been tired legs, the Lobos remained focused and cool under pressure.

New Mexico cruised to victory by winning the all-important doubles point and rode the momentum to three straight wins in singles play.

Hernandez-Tong, Perrin and West all emerged victorious in their matches to give the Lobos a 4-0 victory over the Cornhuskers.

New Mexico may have benefitted from the quick victory against Nebraska, because the final matchup against Utah on Sunday proved to be another fierce and dramatic encounter.

This time the Lobos struck first by winning the doubles point. But Utah bounced back with three singles wins in the first five singles matches, evening things up again at 3-3.

The deciding match, the sixth singles match, came down to Lobo freshman West and Utah junior Santiago Sierra.

West won the first set 7-5, but surrendered the second one 6-4, which forced a decisive third set.

West went down a break in the final set and found himself down 4-2, with things looking bleak for the Lobos. But the wide-eyed freshman didn’t shy away from the moment and fought back to win four straight games, taking the final set 6-4, and securing the 4-3 win for his team.

Dunbar said the men are starting to believe in themselves and was very proud of the way they played, especially West’s performance in the clinching match.

“It came down to our freshman, Dominic West from England, and he did a great job under pressure in the third set, coming back from 4-2 down to win 6-4,” Dunbar said. “In the end, we were very clutch under pressure.”

The Lobos will play their next set of matches at home on Saturday, Feb. 25 against UTSA at 10 a.m. and New Mexico State at 4 p.m.

Matthieu Cartron is a sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers women’s soccer. He can be reached at sports@dailylobo.com or on Twitter 
@cartron_matt.

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