The University of New Mexico went riot in their opening match of the season against the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, beating the Vaqueros 7-0 and dropping only one set.
“It was a great start to the season,” UNM head coach Ben Dunbar said in a release after the match. The Lobos lost their first match of the season last year to Texas Tech 4-0, and were unable to pick up their first win of the season until their fifth match.
The 2018 UNM men’s roster features familiar faces as well as new, with six players returning and three freshmen joining the team. Senior Sean Baklini, senior Jorge Escutia, senior Bart Van Leijsen, junior Ricky Hernandez-Tong, junior Michael Tran, and sophomore Dominic West are all returning players. The three new additions are freshmen Stepan Holis of the Czech Republic, and Philip Stockmar and Tim Buttner of Germany.
In singles play, Holis swept UTRGV sophomore Mateo Schmit 6-1, 6-1 on court five, and on court two Van Leijsen beat junior Yehonatan Kaufman 6-1, 6-3. On court four, Buttner put together a 6-4, 6-4 win against senior Elliot Johnstone, and on court five, Escutia picked up another point for the Lobos in a 6-3, 6-4 victory.
On court three, UNM’s West battled hard against sophomore Dennis Boisseau, who after dropping the first set 6-0, won the second set 7-5. West won 10-5 in the ensuing tiebreak, and on court 1, Hernandez-Tong ousted senior Koby Jansen 6-3, 6-4.
The Lobos acquired the doubles point through wins from duo Hernandez-Tong and West, and Baklini and Buttner, and the final doubles match, with New Mexico having already won the overall match, was cut short.
The following day New Mexico faced Texas Tech, a team they had failed to beat in their last four encounters. For the Red Raiders, the match against New Mexico was their eleventh match of the season; they played their first match at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa back on January 7th.
The Red Raiders started on the front foot, clinching the doubles point after winning the first doubles match 6-3 and the second 7-6. The Lobos responded early on in singles play—Van Leijsen beat senior Alex Sendegeya 6-3, 6-3—but Texas Tech then handed the Lobos back to back losses: Texas Tech freshman Ilgiz Valieve beat West 6-4, 6-4, and junor Artem Kapshuk beat Escutia 6-2, 7-5.
Texas Tech only needed one more win to seal the match, but the Lobos continued to fight. Hernandez-Tong defeated senior Connor Curry in three sets 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, and Holis defeated sophomore Pyry Hyrkkönen 6-1, 6-1 to bring the overall score to 3-3.
In the deciding match, freshman Matheus Leite overcame Buttner 6-3, 7-6 to clinch the 4-3 victory for the Red Raiders.
"I'm proud of the fight of our team today," Dunbar said in a release after the game. "We can take a lot of positives from this loss, but it still stings. Credit goes to Texas Tech. They fought with us and came out on top in a great match. We know there are areas we need to improve, and we are excited to work on them this week.”
The Lobos will play their first home match of the season against Northern Arizona University at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, Jan 27, at the Mckinnon Family Tennis Center. The following Saturday, New Mexico will play a double-header in Des Moines, Iowa, against the University of Nebraska Omaha and Michigan State.
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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.