The men’s tennis team dismantled the San Diego State University Aztecs 4-1 to remain undefeated in conference play and clinch the regular season championship. The Lobos had their trophy waiting for them after the match and will move on as the one seed in the conference tournament.
On Thursday, April 20 everything went in the Lobos favor. With two matches left in the season, both the University of Las Vegas and Boise State University were upset, and fell to two losses on the season which left the Lobos in control of their destiny. The win moves the Lobos to 5-0 in conference play.
Head coach Chris Russell knows his team’s ability but was still taken aback with the incredible 5-0 run. Russel was praising his team’s performance but was cut off after his team showered him with jugs of water to celebrate the win.
“It kind of came together so fast. We went into last weekend at 2-0, but we knew we had two really tough matches in Boise and Utah State on the road. And then all of (the) sudden, we came out of that 4-0. The guys just played their tails off and when we came home we’re sitting at 4-0 by ourselves … Credit to San Diego State because they were putting pressure on us, but once we got enough of these matches into the third set, that’s where we’re tough. The longer that match goes, that’s where we sink our teeth in," Russell said.
The Lobos won the doubles point to give themselves an early 1-0 lead. On court one, Lobos Arda Azkara and Alex Maggs started with a dominant run winning the first five sets. They had a chance to win at 40-40 but San Diego stole the next two sets. Azkara and Maggs went on to win 6-2.
Court three was the second to finish where Ryoma Matsushita and Georgio Samaha won their match 6-3 after starting out 2-2. Lobos Rafael Abdulsalam and Aram Noroozian were winning their match 4-3, but was cut short after UNM won the other matches.
Three lobos won their first set in the singles matches. On court six, Samaha was the first to finish, winning 6-2 and 6-4 to push the Lobo lead to 2-0. Azkara continued his two year long undefeated streak at home on court one. He won 6-2 and 6-4 to put the Lobos one point away from winning at 3-0.
Nikolay Sysoev lost his match up against San Diego’s Eugenio Gonzalez Fitzmaurice, but it was incredibly competitive and he earned a chance to win the entire match for the Lobos. The first set he lost 6-3, but answered right back winning 6-2. With the set tied 5-5, Fitzmaurice took over and scored the Aztecs’ lone point 7-5.
Abdulsalam lost his first set 6-4 but responded with a 6-4 victory. At this point, the fans had heard of both upsets and had left the bleachers to stand as close to the courts as possible. With the ability to win the match, Abdulsalam had a clutch performance and took over the set. Up 5-2 with the score at 40-15 in Abdulsalam’s favor, a “Lets go Lobos” chant erupted from the fans, and Abdulsalam won the set 6-2 and gave the lobos their 4-1 victory.
For the unfinished matches on court three, Noroozian battled his opponent Bora Sengul in a back and forth set and ultimately won 7-6. Noroozian dropped the next set 6-3, but was 4-1 when the match ended. Matsushita on court four was also in a tight match: after losing the first set 6-3, he fought for a 7-6 victory. The match was tied 2-2 but went unfinished.
After the match, Azkara was pleased with his performance and said the team won’t lose focus going into the conference tournament.
“I haven’t lost at number one in two years. I’m doing my job. We’re happy as a team, but we got one more on Saturday against UNLV. We don’t want to share the title with anyone. We want it to be ours. We are focusing on UNLV and then, after that, we are going to Las Vegas for the conference tournament. We’re ready.” Azkara said.
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The Lobos have their last game in the regular season at home against UNLV on Saturday, April 22.
Thomas Bulger is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @thomasbulger10