In back-to-back home fixtures over the weekend, the University of New Mexico (13-10) lost 4-1 to Utah State (16-8) on Friday but responded two days later with a dramatic 4-3 victory over rivals Boise State (9-17).
Tied 3-3 against the Broncos, the deciding point fell onto the shoulders of UNM senior and Albuquerque native Sean Baklini, who at the No. 6 position was pitted against Bronco senior Ryland McDermott.
McDermott, 8-10 in singles this year, won the first set against Baklini 6-4, putting the Broncos one step closer to clinching the overall victory.
But in the second set, Baklini fought for survival, and after forcing a second-set tiebreak, won the second set 7-6 (7-5) to force a third set.
After the match against Utah, which saw the Lobos win the doubles point but lose four consecutive singles matches, UNM head coach Ben Dunbar spoke of experience, and how the defeat might shape future matches and make his side stronger.
Against Mountain West rivals Boise, the venue could not have been any better for Dunbar’s men and Baklini, who had never won a clinch match for his side, to respond to the heavy defeat.
Using the momentum from the second set, Baklini closed out the third set 6-1, ensuring the Lobos would have something to take away from the pair of home fixtures.
The rivalry between the Broncos and Lobos goes back several years. In 2013, the Broncos beat the Lobos in the final of the Mountain West Conference tournament, and the following year, the Broncos knocked out the Lobos in the semifinals.
More recently, the Lobos have had a greater share of the spoils. After the win on Sunday, the Lobos have now won the last three meetings between the two sides.
After the match, Dunbar said he was proud of his side, and in particular lauded Baklini for his first clinch victory for UNM.
“He has such a rock mentality, and showed that he has learned so much in his time here,” Dunbar said in a release. “We hope to see our fans again Friday at one and then Saturday at one for a senior day celebration of Bart [Van Leijsen], Jorge [Escutia], and Sean, who have meant so much to this program."
The Lobo’s senior day is this Saturday, April 21 . On Friday they will take on the University of Denver at 1 p.m. MDT and on Saturday they will face Air Force at 12 p.m. MDT. Both at home, the matches will be held at the McKinnon Family Tennis Center.
After the next pair of Mountain West fixtures, the Lobos will participate in the Mountain West Conference Tournament.
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 email@example.com or on Twitter @cartron_matt.