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Lobos Drop 4-2 Decision to No. 73 ETSU

by Frank Mercogliano

HOUSTON, Texas — New Mexico’s final non-conference match of the season didn’t go as planned, as the Lobos once again captured the doubles point but ultimately fell 4-2 to No. 73 East Tennessee State.  UNM ends non-conference play at 6-9, with seven of the losses to teams that were in nationally ranked, or now are.

For the Lobos, the match was the second straight in which they took the doubles point and a 1-0 lead.  UNM got the point when No. 1 doubles team of Arda Azkara and Nicolas Prieto won 6-4 over Juan Zabalal and Frazier Rengifo.  That gave UNM the 2-1 edge in doubles as Rafael Abdulsalam and Jan Pucalka won at No. 2 6-2 after Georgio Samaha and Aram Noroozian, in their first doubles match together, lost 6-3 at No. 3.

That sent UNM up 1-0 heading into singles, but ETSU took five of the six opening sets to take control of the match.  They got a 3-1 lead with wins at Nos. 3, 5 and 1 as UNM shuffled its lineup to give No. 1 player Azkara the match off.  Azkara, who pulled out a gutty three-set win on Friday, bounced back from a leg injury to gut out that win, and after doubles he was shelved, which made a shuffle of UNM’s lineup.  JALex Maggs rejoined the lineup in the no. 3 slot and Noroozian moved to No. 2 and Abdulsalam to No. 1.

Down 3-1, Noroozian earned his first career win at No. 2 singles with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 win, making it 3-2, with the only other matches going on both in third sets.  ETSU clinched the match when Hugo Lobo, who even we admit has a wonderful last name, edge Daniil Kakhniuk 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.  Georgia Samaha’s match went unfinished in the third set.

The Lobos now head home for conference play as the Lobos will open its six-match Mountain West schedule next Saturday on April 2 when the squad hosts Air Force at 4 p.m. at McKinnon Family Tennis Stadium.