The men’s tennis team defeated the University of Nevada, Las Vegas 4-1 to go 6-0 in conference play. The Lobos had clinched the first seed in their previous match against San Diego State University.
They will now advance to the semifinals in Las Vegas, Nevada. The team hopes to win the conference tournament for the first time since 2009. The last time the Lobos were both tournament and regular season champions was 2004.
In between the doubles and singles matches, UNM’s lone senior Alex Maggs was honored. He received flowers and a framed photograph from the team along with a standing ovation from the crowd. Maggs has one more year of eligibility but is undecided on if he will return next season.
When asked about what might be his final home match, Maggs said he was happy with how the day went and feels the team is ready for the conference tournament.
“I don’t know 100% if it’s my last home game, but if it is, it's a great way to go out,” Maggs said. “It was really fun, great atmosphere, great crowd and it helps when you play well and rise to occasion. It was a really fun day … We are full of confidence now. We had a great regular season, but we know it’s not done yet and know to not get complacent and keep pounding the stone.”
The Lobos lost the doubles point, but that ended up being the only match they lost. On court one, Arda Azkara and Maggs made quick work of their opponents, winning 6-0. Ryoma Matsushita and Georgio Samaha were defeated by Anton Ornberg and Jackson Atherton 7-6 after going 7-4 in the tiebreaker.
Rafael Abdulsalam and Aram Noroozian almost pushed their match into tiebreakers, but gave up the final point for UNLV to take an early 1-0 lead in the match.
UNM then took over the singles matches with five Lobos winning the first set. Azkara kept his personal undefeated streak alive, winning his match 6-1 and 6-4. Noroozian was the second to finish: he took care of business, winning 6-1 and 6-2 on court three. The Lobos were up 2-1 when Maggs finished his match. He won the first set 6-2 and won the second set 6-1.
On court five, Samaha was battling Dusan Rsovac. Samaha went 9-7 to break the tie and win the set 7-6. In the second set, he was 5-3, and with the score at 40-40, he had the ability to win the game. He came through for the team, going 6-3 in the set and giving the Lobos their 4-1 victory.
For the unfinished matches, Abdulsalam dropped his first set 2-6 but rallied back to win 6-3; the match was over before the third set started. Matsushita won his first set 6-4 and was down 5-4 when the match ended.
After the match, head coach Chris Russell talked about the team’s resilience and his hopes for carrying that resolve into the tournament.
“They just have some resolve. We have some guys that love to compete. We’ve been in that situation where we haven’t won the double point and they just kind of battle. They get their heads down and they go … When they get it going, they are really tough,” Russell said. “We have to perpetuate that and keep reminding them of the momentum they have and get that started every day.”
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The Lobos will play in Las Vegas, Nevada against the winner of Utah State vs. UNLV on Thursday, April 27.
Thomas Bulger is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @thomasbulger10