The University of New Mexico, after taking third in the Mountain Pacific Invitational, put together back-to-back 4-3 victories against Nebraska-Lincoln and Wichita State in Des Moines, Iowa, to build momentum heading into the match on Thursday this week against New Mexico State.
The Lobos (10-5) first played Nebraska Lincoln (9-3), who had played Wichita State (7-7) the previous day and lost 4-1.
The Lobos got off to a raucous start. In doubles, UNM junior Ricky Hernandez-Tong and sophomore Dominic West eased past sophomore Micah Klousia and freshman William Grattan-Smith 6-0 at the No. 2 position.
But the Huskers seemed to steady from the early wobble through sophomores Dylan Bednarczyk and Chris Dean, who defeated senior Sean Baklini and freshman Tim Buttner 6-4 at the No. 3 position to pin the doubles point to the match on court one.
At the No. 1 position, UNM seniors Bart Van Leijsen and Jorge Escutia battled against junior Toby Boyer and senior Linus Erhart —and in the tie-break, it was UNM that prevailed, winning the set 7-6 to earn the early 1-0 advantage.
In singles play, the Huskers made it difficult for the Lobos. At the No. 1 spot, Nebraska’s Boyer beat Hernandez-Tong to keep up his perfect singles record this season. Nebraska also picked up wins at the No. 2 and No. 6 positions, but wins from Escutia, West, and freshman Stepan Holis sealed the overall 4-3 victory for the Lobos.
The fixture against Wichita State the following day offered the Lobos an opportunity for revenge; the Shockers beat the Lobos in the second round of the Mountain Pacific Invitational Tournament to reach the final, where they beat Grand Canyon University to win the tournament.
But this time, UNM had other ideas.
The Lobos again seized the doubles point, this time after a comeback. Hernandez-Tong and West lost to junior Andrea Caligiana and senior Miroslav Herzan 6-4, but wins from duos Holis and Baklini and Van Leijsen and Escutia gave the Lobos the early 1-0 advantage.
But in singles, the Shockers seized the momentum. Caligiana defeated Baklini at the No. 6 position 6-4, 6-2, and Escutia lost to Herzan, 6-4, 6-3 at the No. 4 position.
At the No. 2 position, Hernandez-Tong put the Lobos back level with a narrow 6-4, 7-6 victory over junior Marius Frosa, but the Shockers fired back through sophomore Murkel Dellien, who bested West 7-6, 6-2.
Down 3-2, the Lobos were at risk of losing twice to Wichita within the same week—but UNM rallied.
The final two matches, on courts one and five, would both go to three sets. Van Leijsen overcame junior Haru Inoue 6-2, 6-7, 6-3 and Holis beat junior Eddie Stoica 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 to give the Lobos a hard-earned 4-3 overall victory.
The Lobos will participate in the annual Rio Grande Rivalry on Thursday this week against New Mexico State (8-5), who are coming off of a 6-1 win against the New Mexico Military Institute. The match will start at 1:00 p.m. in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Matthieu Cartron is a senior writer and sports 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.