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Lobos Take Down Rebels 4-1

by Frank Mercogliano

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Sitting with a chance for one more point for a clinching win, Rafael Abdulsalam, one of the elder statesmen of the Lobos, delivered. Twice in fact.

Abdulsalam, one of the oldest Lobos on the team despite just being a junior with two more years left, got a huge break at 5-5 in the second set and then survived a pair of missed match points at 40-15 and 40-30 to clinch a 6-1, 7-5 win, propelling UNM to a 4-1 win over UNLV and pushing UNM into a first place tie with Nevada with each team having two matches left.

The win was the second of the day for Abdulsalam, as it was his doubles win, teaming up with freshman Georgio Samaha, that put UNM up 1-0, winning a tiebreaker 7-4 to clinch the doubles point, fighting off a set point at deuce down 5-4.

That double win was coupled with Alex Maggs and Jan Pucalka who won the final five games to take a 6-3 win at No. 2 doubles, and those two wins gave UNM a 2-1 win in doubles and a 1-0 lead in match.

UNM (9-10, 3-1 MW) set themselves up for success with five opening set wins in singles.  The key win in taht bunch was from Alex Maggs, who trailed 3-2, took a 5-4 lead, and then forced a tiebreaker, winning that 7-4, taking four of the final five points.  That put UNM in the driver’s seat.  UNLV did tie the match with a win at No. 4 singles, but the Rebels would have to win five second sets and three other thirds, and that just wasn’t happening.

Samaha made it 2-1 when he won 6-3, 6-4 for his team-leading 15th singles win.  Maggs, who had the dramatic opening set win, cruised to a 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 win taking the final three games to give UNM a 3-1 lead.  Abdulsalam was up 5-4 and had a match point at deuce but Zac Brodney forced a 5-5 tie.  A win by Abdulsalam would take the pressure off Arda Azkara at No. 1 singles, who was at 1-1 in the third, and Aram Noroozian at No. 3, who eventually got to 5-5 in the third.

Abdulsalam, broken at deuce at 5-4, broke Bordney back to take back the lead at 6-5.  He then bolted to a 40-15 lead, missed two shots at the win but put Brodney away with his fourth overall match point to put UNM within two wins of at least a share of a third straight regular season Mountain West title.

The Lobos now head to San Diego for a matchup with the Aztecs at noon Mountain Time.  SDSU, idle on Thurday, is 5-10 on the year and 1-2 in the Mountain West having defeated Air Force 4-1 and losing to both UNLV and Utah State 4-3.

NOTES: Samaha has a combined 26 wins to easily lead the team … UNM moved above .500 for the year in singles at 66-64 (.508).