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Chris Russell Era Begins with Trip to ITA Mountain Regionals

by Frank Mercogliano

PROVO, Utah — The University of New Mexico will head out for its first fall competition in two years, and new head coach Chris Russell will get to see exactly what he has as seven Lobos will take part in the 2021 ITA Mountain Regionals, hosted by BYU September 21-25.

Four Lobos earned seeds in the 107-man singles bracket that will go up to seven matches for some in the 128-man bracket.  Freshman Arda Azkara earned a No. 13 seed and advanced automatically to the Round of 64, and Rafael Abdulsalam is the No. 20 seed, and also got a bye into the Round of 64.

For Azkara, he will face the winner of opening round match between Idaho State’s Hiroki Fujita and Boise State’s Lawrence Scigitano at 5:30 pm on Tuesday.  Fujita and Scigitano play earlier in the day at 1 pm.  Abdulsalam will play at 2:30 pm on Tuesday against the winner of Martin Simecek of New Mexico State and Bo-Han Li of Weber State.  That match is at 10 am on Tuesday.

The other five Lobos in the bracket will play in the opening Round of 128.  Freshm Joel Pierleoni will take on Montana State’s Daan Van Dijk at 10 am.  With a win, he would face either No. 30 Daniel Krulig of Denver or Morgan Donovan of Northern Arizona at 2:30 pm.  Fellow freshman Georgio Samaha also will have a Bobcat opponent in the opening round, as he will take on Montana State’s Nejc Sitar at 11:30 am.  Should he win, he would get the winner of No. 31 Robert Baylon of Air Force and Marcus Sulen of Northern Arziona (and a transfer from Louisville) at 2:30 pm

Senior Nicolas Prieto has a tough opening round matchup with No. 24 Francisco Bascon of Idaho at 11:30 am.  A win there would place him in a 4 pm match against either NAU’s Joachim Schaefer or BYU’s Dominik Jakovljevic.  Within the same eight-man pod, Freshman Jan Pucalka takes on Elyes Marouani of Weber State, with a potential Round of 64 match with UNLV’s Jordan Sauer, the No. 18 seed, on deck.

Alexander Maggs also has a tough opening opponent in No. 25 seed Patrik Trhac of Idaho State at 1 pm on Tuesday.  A win would put him against either NAU’s Dominik Buzonics or Weber State’s Chia Chieh Lin at 4 pm.

In doubles, UNM will have three teams, with Pierleoni and Azkara landing as the No. 10 seed.  They will play Wednesday at 9 am in the Round of 32 against either Sebastian Buxman and Arthur Serafim of Weber State or Kyryll Kryvchun and  Michael Bott of Boise State.  UNM’s other two teams will play in the Round of 64.  Prieto and Abdulsalam will face Brigham Andrus and Alex Lin of BYU on Tuesday at 9 am while Maggs and Pucalka will face Felipe Acosta and Javier Ruiz Medina of Utah State at 9:45 am on Tuesday.

The tournament runs through Saturday, September 25, which will be the men’s singles final.  The doubles final is on Friday afternoon.  The ITA Regionals is a single-elimination tournament featuring players from every team in the Mountain Region of the ITA.