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Lobo Shut Out BYU 4-0

by Frank Mercogliano

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — In the first match of a back-to-back home series with BYU, the New Mexico Lobos took care of business in round one, winning 4-0 in just over two hours.  Now, the team has to remember that its BYU on the other side of the net, a team that will certainly be ready to bounce back on Saturday.  The Lobos took care of the doubles point in a sweep and then took three matches, including Arda Azkara’s third straight at No. 1 singles.

The win was UNM’s second straight in the series after a 4-3 win last year in Provo, and it was the first shutout of BYU by the Lobos since 2015, when UNM also won 4-0. UNM didn’t lose a match on the day, sweeping two doubles matches and winning three in singles.  Nicolas Prieto and Azkara opened doubles with a 6-2 win to give UNM a lead.  From there it was a battle at No. 1 and No. 3. It looked like BYU might even it up at 1-1 as Matheus Ferreira Leite and Brigham Andrus of BYU held a 5-4 lead on Rafael Abdulsalam and Georgio Samaha at No. 3 doubles, but UNM was able to get a break of serve and then take a 6-5 lead.  That match never finished though as Alex Maggs and Jan Pucalka won the final three games, including a save of set point for a 7-5 thriller.  That gave UNM a 1-0 lead, and BYU really never threatened after that.

The Lobos took five of the six opening sets in singles, with two of them finishing off at 6-1 and three finishing within a minute of each other.  Daniel Kakhniuk won his opening set, moving down a slot to No. 4 singles, and that was followed by Samaha’s 6-1 win at No. 6.  Jan Pucalka followed with a 6-4 win in his opening set.  BYU did take the opening set at No. 3 singles as Leite blitzed Alex Maggs 6-0 in Maggs’ first match of the year at No. 3, moving up a slot from No. 4.

UNM’s top two players, Azkara and Abdulsalam put the gas pedal down on the match with opening set wins.  Azkara fought off two set points down 5-4 to bounce back and win 7-5, and Abdulsalam needed three set points but won his set 6-4.  From there, it was pretty simple as Samaha finished off his match quickly 6-1, 6-2 to make it 2-0, and Pucalka won a great match with Andrus 6-4, 6-4.  That was a match with plenty of crazy rallies and it was punctuated by three straight overhead slams by Pucalka to end it.

That made it 3-0, and with Azkara up 3-1 in his second set, his opponent Jack Barnett retired due to an injury, giving UNM the 4-0 match.  Abdulsalam was at 1-1 in his second set when the match was halted.  Kakhniuk was ahead 6-1, 4-6, 1-0 at No. 4 and Maggs worked his way back even with a great second set, winning that 6-4 after the opening set was dropped.

UNM’s win was its third in a row and moved the Lobos to 3-2, while BYU dropped to 2-2.  Both teams wil go right back at it tomorrow at noon at McKinnon Family Tennis Stadium.

NOTES: Pucalka’s win at No. 5 pushed him to 5-0 in the spring … Samaha and Azkara each won their team-leading eighth singles match … UNM’s two losses this season are to Gonzaga and Utah, who are a combined 16-1, and the one was because they played each other.

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