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Lobos Bounce Back Big 4-0 Over Boise State

by Frank Mercogliano

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico certainly had the proper response to its first conference loss of the season on Friday, as the Lobos swept away the Boise State Broncos and put themselves right back in the race for a potential third-straight Mountain West title.  New Mexico improved to 8-10 overall and 2-1 in the Mountain West while Boise State dropped to 13-8 overall and 1-2 in the Mountain West.

The Lobos got good news after the match as Nevada, the only unbeaten left in the conference, lost 4-1 to Air Force on Sunday, meaning UNM is even in the loss column with Nevada with three games left.

UNM got out to a good start in doubles, winning two matches within a point of each other to clinch the opening point.  Alex Maggs and Jan Pucalka took a 6-2 win at No. 2 doubles, and that was followed within a minute of Rafael Abdulsalam and Georgio Samaha, who teamed up for a 6-1 win at No. 3 doubles.  Abdulsalam and Samaha held the hammer down on BSU’s Ryo Minakata and Michael Bott as UNM’s pairing broke the second and fourth games to open a commanding 5-0 lead.

From there, the match went to singles, and it was Boise State that took three of the first five opening sets to finish, two in comeback fashion.  It looked really good early for UNM as Abdulsalam hammered Simon Arca Costas 6-1 in his opening set and Georgio Samaha won 6-3 at No. 6 over James Van Herzeele.  It looked like UNM would get two other opening sets, but both Alex Maggs and No. 5 and Jan Pucalka at No. 4 couldn’t hold 4-1 leads, both losing five straight games to fall 6-4.

However, the match seemingly turned on a court that never finished.  Arda Azkara at No. 1 singles had to scuffle from down a break at 3-1 to even his opening set at 3-all.  He was then broken at 4-3 by Pedro Liborio, and and 5-4, Azkara was serving but faced two set points.  On the first, he sent a ball to Liborio’s right that he couldn’t return, putting it in the net.  Then at deuce, Azkara passed him to the left, tying the match.  In the tiebreaker, everything was on serve at 3-2 for Azkara when he got back-to-back mini-breaks to make it 5-2, and he served out a 7-2 tiebreak win from there.

Suddenly UNM had three opening set wins, and Azkara’s win energized everyone else as Noroozian, Pucalka and Maggs all bounced back to win their second sets, all winning 6-3.

Up 3-0, it was Noroozian that pushed ahead quicker, and ended up clinching the match.  Tied at 3-3, he broke Jan Lucca Marquardt, but Marquardt broke him right back.

All knotted at 4-4, Noroozian got another break, and then served out the match, winning on a serve that was returned long.

Maggs was up 2-1 in his third set and Pucalka was up 3-1 in his third, while Azkara was down 4-2 in the second set.  The Lobos now head on the road for its last two road conference matches, facing UNLV on Thursday in Las Vegas and San Diego State on Satuday in San Diego.

NOTES: Samaha’s win was his team best 14th.