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Ricky Hernandez Tong returns a shot during the Lobos’ match against the University of California, Santa Barbara Feb. 25, 2018. UNM beat UCSB, 4-3

Ricky Hernandez Tong returns a shot during the Lobos’ match against the University of California, Santa Barbara Feb. 25, 2018. UNM beat UCSB, 4-3

Men’s Tennis: Weekend split leaves Lobos 6-4

The University of New Mexico (6-4) fell 4-2 on Friday to the University of Utah (14-1) before taking down the University of California, Santa Barbara (5-4) on Sunday in a dramatic 4-3 win.

In doubles play against the University of Utah, the Lobos appeared to be on their way to snatching the doubles point from the Utes after the duo of seniors Bart Van Leijsen and Jorge Escutia beat Utah junior David Micevski and freshman Randy Cory 6-4.

But soon after, junior Ricky Hernandez-Tong and sophomore Dominic West fell to junior Joe Woolley and senior Egbert Weverink 6-4, and on court three Utah junior Dan Little and sophomore Azat Hankuliyev quickly followed up with a 6-4 win over UNM freshman Stepan Holis and senior Sean Baklini to give the Utes the doubles point.

The Utes rode the early momentum into doubles play. On court five Cory defeated UNM freshman Tim Buttner 7-6, 6-2 to put the Utes up 2-0.

Despite the early setback, UNM continued to fight. On court three, West put the Lobos on the board with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Utah sophomore Slava Shainyan.

But the Utes responded well. On court one, Little narrowly beat Van Leijsen 7-6, 6-4 to reestablish Utah’s two-point lead.

At 3-1 up the Utes only needed one more point to win the overall match. UNM’s Holis then beat Utah senior Santiago Sierra 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 on court six to keep the Lobos in the match.

But on court four, Utah’s Weverink landed the final blow, coming back to beat Escutia 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 to give the Utes the overall victory.

With another match two days later, the Lobos quickly turned their focus to Santa Barbara, against whom they delivered another high-energy display.

It was Santa Barbara though that started on the front foot — tied 1-1 in doubles, Santa Barbara juniors Nicolas Moreno de Alboran and Anders Holm beat Van Leijsen and Escutia 7-6 to break the deadlock and gift the doubles point to the Gauchos.

In singles play, the Gauchos nearly ran away with it. Sophomore Joseph Guillin beat UNM’s West 6-1, 6-1 on court three, and on court five freshman Victor Krustev ousted UNM’s Buttner 6-3, 6-0.

Down 3-0, the Lobos could not afford to concede another match. On court six Holis beat junior Hironori Koyanagi 6-2, 6-4 to pull one back for the Lobos, and on court four, Escutia defeated Holm 7-6, 6-2 to bring the Lobos within touching distance.

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On court two, Van Leijsen, after losing the opening set 6-4 to Gaucho senior Simon Freund, fought back to take the second set 7-5, and then the third 6-4, making the Lobos level with the Gauchos at 3-3.

On court one, Hernandez-Tong and Moreno de Alboran battled in the third set after having each traded a set up to that point. With fans and both squads watching them, Hernandez-Tong managed to edge past Moreno de Alboran in the third set 6-4, winning the match 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 and the overall match 4-3 for the Lobos.

The dramatic comeback left the Gaucho squad deflated and in disbelief.

"The match left the guys devastated.” UC Santa Barbara head coach Marty Davis said in a release after the match. “It's a pretty quiet group right now."

Next up for the Lobos is the Mountain Pacific Invitational, which they will host this year. The schedule is still to be decided.

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 or on Twitter @cartron_matt.

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