The University of New Mexico men’s tennis team split their second pair of Mountain West conference matches to go 12-9 on the season and 2-2 in conference play.
The first of the two fixtures was away to San Diego State. Last season, UNM lost to SDSU on a couple of occasions. One loss came in Mountain West play, while the other occured in the Mountain West tournament.
With last season’s disappointing results in mind, the matchup proved to be a potential benchmark for the Lobos, a measure of progress for a squad largely unchanged from the previous season.
It was close, but UNM found a way to break its recent SDSU stint.
In doubles, UNM’s Dominic West and Sean Baklini fell 6-4 at the No. 2 position to freshman Jan Kirkoff and junior Raul de la Torre. After the initial loss, the pressure fell on the remaining two UNM doubles pairs to win their matches.
But the Aztecs ended any hope of a UNM doubles resurgence after SDSU sophomore Arnaud Restifo and sophomore David Hough ousted Ricky-Hernandez Tong and freshman Stepan Holis 6-4 to seize the doubles point for the Aztecs.
Despite the early setback, the Lobos reasserted themselves in singles play.
At the No. 1 position, UNM senior Bart van Leijsen leveled the score with a 6-1, 6-1 win over SDSU’s Ignacio Martinez. Holis and Hernandez-Tong, at the No. 5 and No. 2 positions respectively, then put the Lobos up 3-1 with back to back victories, bringing UNM within one point of winning the overall match.
But at the No. 3 position, UNM’s West lost to SDSU junior Sander Gjoels-Andersen 7-5, 6-1, and SDSU’s de la Torre soon followed up with a victory over Baklini, tying the game 3-3.
Fortunately for UNM, senior Jorge Escutia was able to clinch the overall victory, beating sophomore Rafael Gonzalez Almazan 7-6, 6-4.
“The Mountain West Conference is really competitive, so a road win at SDSU is great to get,” Dunbar said in a release. “It’s also good to taste winning here because the conference tournament is here in two weeks.”
Despite the important road win, the Lobos were unable to build momentum two days later. UNVL, 13-7 on the season and on an impressive run of form, took the game to the Lobos.
The Rebels clinched the doubles point through freshman Clayton Alenik and junior Richard Solberg, and in singles, senior Alexandr Cozbinov beat UNM’s Van Leijsen 6-2, 6-1 to put UNLV up 2-0.
The Rebels, closing in on the overall victory, went up 3-0 through Solberg, who defeated Holis 6-2, 6-2 at the No. 5 position.
Despite the onslaught from the Rebels, the Lobos continued to fight, and even for a moment looked as though they might pull off what would have been an impressive comeback.
West picked up a victory for the Lobos at the No. 3 position, and Baklini edged freshman Jordan Sauer 7-5, 7-6 at the No. 6 position, but Escutia, the hero of the previous match, came out second best to sophomore Eric Samuelsson, who won 2-6, 6-1, 7-6.
The Lobos will continue conference play this Friday, taking on Utah State at 5 p.m. MDT at the McKinnon Family Tennis Center.
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.