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Lobos Open MW Play with 4-1 Win Over Fresno State

by Frank Mercogliano

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico men’s tennis is the defending conference champions of the Mountain West and they looked the part on Thursday.  UNM handled Fresno State in just two hours, 27 minutes with a 4-1 victory that put a sharp end to the 10-game winning streak that the Bulldogs entered with.

UNM improved to 3-8, ending a seven-match winning streak of its own, but that mark was deceiving with UNM losing five of those matches to nationally-ranked teams, all either 4-3 or 4-2.

The Lobos found themselves down on all three doubles courts to open the match, but UNM quickly spun that around.  Down 2-0 at No. 2 doubles, Raul Dobai and Jake Trondson bounced back to win the final six games for a quick 6-2 win.

UNM’s top doubles team of Sergio Molina and Dominic West also were down 2-0, and then 3-1, but as they were scuffling, UNM’s No. 3 team of Stepan Holis and Alex Maggs stayed ahead of their opponents Zdanek Derkas and Henrique Osorio.  That lead at three allowed Molina and West the chance to find their game with a little less pressure, and find it they did.  The duo won their final five games for a 6-3 win, finishing the doubles point.  UNM’s 1-0 lead meant Holis and Maggs couldn’t finish their match, leading 5-4.

To singles it went, and UNM picked up four opening set wins to take a stranglehold of the match.  UNM picked up only one of those quickly, with Sergio Molina winning 6-2.  The sophomore, winless on the year despite so many close calls, made sure nothing weird would happen.  He blitzkreiged Reece Falck 6-2, 6-1 to give UNM a 2-0 lead.  Between his powerful left-handed forehand that constantly found free space in doubles and a terrific serve a volley game in singles, Molina got the result not just that UNM needed, but he needed as well.

With Molina cheering his teammates on, Raul Dobai, sliding back up to No. 1 singles, took a 7-5 opening set win over Derkas which happened after Stepan Holis lost his first set 6-2.  Holis would bounce back with a 6-1 second set win.

The opening set drama was at Nos. 2, 4 and 6, where all three sets went to tiebreakers despite all three Lobos being down 6-5.  At No. 6, Jake Trondson was able to parlay a huge break of serve in the 12th game to force a tiebreaker.  The senior then bolted to a 3-2 lead in the tiebreaker before Alexey Aleschev won the next two points, but a wicked forehand winner gave Trondson a 4-2 lead at the break and that propelled him to a 7-3 tiebreak win.

Next to him Rafael Abdulsalam went to a tiebreaker but lost by an identical 7-3 score, and that but the eyes squarely on court 4, where Dominic West and Dario Huber battled in an epic duel.  In an exhausting match, the two players somehow played into ties at 3-3, 4-4, 5-5, 6-6, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, 10-10, 11-11, 12-12, 13-13, 14-14 and 15-15.  Finally, after the fifth change, West took a 16-15 lead, served and force Huber into a backhand that flew just long.  With that, West let out a loud celebratory “That’s a set Lobos” and raised his arms.

That win seemed to give him a little juice, as he was up 3-1, but his match wouldn’t finish.  With UNM up 2-0, Dobai handled Derkas 6-3 in the second set, winning the final four games to give UNM a 3-0 lead.  Fresno State got one back, its lone point of the afternoon, with a three-set win by Angus Bradshaw over Holis 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.  But, UNM needed just one more win, and it was Trondson with the honors, winning 6-4, taking the final three games including a break at 4-4, to seal the win.

The Lobos, who have now won 10 straight Mountain West regular season matches dating back to April 13, 2018, head on the road to face Nevada at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

NOTES:  UNM’s last Mountain West loss is now 1,084 days ago … Trondson, who played mostly doubles last year, is now 5-3 in singles this season … West and Molina, ranked No. 59 nationally, are now 7-2 this season in doubles … West now has 54 doubles wins, two away from joining the top 30 in Lobo history … the win was career win number 49 for Ben Dunbar.

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