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Lobos Sweep End-of-Season Honors

by Frank Mercogliano

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Raul Dobai became the first men’s tennis player in 18 seasons to earn both Mountain West Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year honors and Ben Dunbar was named Coach of the Year as the Lobos swept all the major awards as the Mountain West announced the 2021 All-Mountain West teams.

UNM became just the second men’s tennis team to sweep all three end-of-season awards, joining San Diego State who turned that trick in 2007.  The honors for Dunbar and Dobai headlined a big haul for the back-to-back Mountain West champions, which also saw Dobai and Dominic West named All-Mountain West for singles.  West and Sergio Molina were both named All-Mountain West in doubles.

Overall, Dobai is the third Lobo named Mountain West Player of the Year and the fifth overall.  He is UNM’s first since Johnny Parkes picked up such honors in 2009.  Dobai was a force for UNM in the top slot in the lineup, playing No. 1 in all seven conference matches with a perfect 6-0 record.  Dobai went 13-1 in sets, his only dropped set in a tiebreaker.  He opened conference play with a straight set 7-5, 6-3 win over the 2019 Player of the Year in Fresno State’s Zdenek Derkas.

His only match that he did not finish in conference play was against UNLV, when he took on UNLV’s graduate transfer All-American Alex Kobelt and had a 6-4, 5-3 lead when the Lobos clinched a 4-0 victory.  Dobai punctuated his season with an ace on match point to clinch a season-ending 4-1 win over Air Force and nail down not just a conference title but UNM’s first NCAA trip since 2015.

Dobai is the first Mountain West player to earn both major awards since Air Force’s Shannon Buck was named Co-Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year in 2003.  Dobai is the first to earn both honors without sharing the awards.  For 2021, the Freshman of the Year award was switched to Newcomer of the Year and any newcomer in the 2020 was eligible.  Dobai is UNM’s sixth Freshman/Newcomer of the Year, joining Max Jones (2005), Johnny Parkes (2006), Jadon Phillips (2010), Hayden Sabatka (2014) and Bart Van Leijsen (2015).

Dunbar is the third Lobo coach to be named Mountain West Coach of the Year, and he is the first since Bart Scott won it in 2015.  Alan Dils was a five-time Mountain West Coach of the Year.  Dunbar led UNM to back-to-back Mountain West titles, and UNM went over three calendar years without a Mountain West conference loss, winning 14 straight matches.

Dominic West, who went 5-0 in singles in Mountain West play at No. 2 singles, earned All-Mountain West honors for the fourth time in his career, having done so in 2017, 2019, and in 2020.  He is the fifth  Lobo men’s tennis player to ever earn All-Mountain West honors four times, joining Van Leijsen (2015-18), Phillips (2010-13) Parkes (2006-09) and Jones (2005-08).  Additionally, Jack Griffin and Steve Bickham were four-time All-Conference honorees for UNM during their WAC days (1984-87).

In doubles, West and Molina teamed up to be a formidable duo, going 6-1 on the season in MW play and 11-3 overall, almost all of that at No. 1 doubles.  The duo has been nationally-ranked in four of the last five week, climbing as high as No. 57 overall, and currently sitting at No. 77.

UNM will find out its NCAA First Round opponent at 4:30 p.m. on Monday as will live stream the men’s tennis selection show.