After a mixed start to their 2017 Conference campaign, the Lobos will be hoping to reassert themselves as Conference contenders in the upcoming fixtures. The Lobos lost a close match at home to Fresno State last Friday, but bounced back two days later, beating Nevada 4-1 in a dominant display.
UNM (8-10, 1-1 MW) will face Boise State (4-18, 1-2 MW) and Utah State (14-7, 2-0 MW) in their next pair of Conference fixtures; the Lobos beat the Broncos earlier in the season 4-0, but have yet to face Utah State. All three teams have Conference ambitions, and they know well that each match from now until the end of the season is crucial—and could potentially define the remainder of their season.
Although not traditional rivals, Boise State and UNM have developed a rivalry over the last decade. They have encountered one another in the Conference tournament several times, and their matches are typically close with little to separate the two sides.
The Broncos however, have struggled so far this season, managing to win only four of their 22 matches. Two of those wins have come in their last five matches, where they won 6-1 against Eastern Washington on March 27th and 4-3 against UNLV on March 21st. Before their win against UNLV, the Broncos hadn’t won since February 11th. Despite their less-than-favorable form, UNM can still expect a tough battle from the Broncos. Logic does not always factor into rivalry matches in the same way that it might in other matches.
After playing the Broncos, the Lobos will then travel to Logan, Utah, to take on the Aggies on their home court. Unlike Boise, Utah State has had an impressive season thus far, winning 15 of 21 matches. The Aggies are undefeated at home (5-0) and have won their first two Conference matches, ousting San Diego State 4-1 and UNLV 4-3. Furthermore, the Aggies have won their last seven matches in a row.
In addition to boasting an impressive record, Utah State has also had some key performers this season. Senior Jack Swindells leads the team in singles wins (22), with junior Kai Wehnelt close behind (21).
Lobo sophomore Ricky Hernandez-Tong also has a strong singles record this season, winning 17 and only losing nine.
Despite the crucial task at hand, UNM head coach Ben Dunbar appeared undaunted, eager to see his team fight this weekend.
“The top of our lineup played like studs against Nevada, and we are going to continue to need their leadership moving forward,” Dunbar said. “We are excited for our trip this weekend to Boise and Logan to play Boise State and Utah State on the road.”
The Lobos will play the Broncos in Boise, Idaho, on Friday, April 7th at 6:00 p.m. MDT, and will then travel to Logan, Utah, to take on the Aggies on Sunday, April 9th at 11:00 a.m. MDT.
Matthieu Cartron is a sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers women’s soccer. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @cartron_matt.
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