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Lobos Host Utah State Saturday on Senior Day

by Frank Mercogliano

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When you have a team that is comprised of 62.5% freshmen, Senior Day can sort of get overlooked, but there probably isn’t a chance of that on Saturday.  The Lobos will say goodbye to lone senior Nicolas Prieto, who technically has a COVID year available, as the Lobos host Utah State in a match that will have huge Mountain West Tournament seeding and championship implications.

The meeting between UNM and Utah State will be the second of the year, as the Aggies won 4-1 back in February in a non-conference neutral match in Arizona.  That match was in the midst of a five-match losing streak for UNM.

Now, the tournament implications are massive, and the full implications won’t really be known until after Thursday’s matches as UNM is idle on Thursday. Nevada is in first place at 4-1, but they host San Diego State on Saturday at noon Pacific, 1 pm Mountain Time.  Utah State is 3-1 in the league and they are at Air Force on Thursday before coming to UNM on Saturday.  San Diego State, which takes on Boise State on Thursday is 2-2 and could force its way into a regular season title.

In fact, SDSU wins on Thursday over Boise State and Saturday over Nevada coupled with a UNM win over Utah State later Saturday would mean a four-way tie for first between UNM, USU, SDSU and Nevada.  In that scenario, UNM would tie for the title but be the three-seed in the tournament with San Diego State earning the bye into the semifinals of the seven-team tournament.  The one thing New Mexico can’t do is get the No. 1 seed in the Mountain West Tournament, because the only way to finish first would be in a two-way tie with Nevada, which would have the head-to-head, or in a three-way tie with Utah State and Nevada, in which case Nevada would still hold the top seed due to defeating both UNM and Utah State.

Utah State could hoist the trophy with wins on Thursday and Saturday or with a loss in one of the two matches provided Nevada loses Saturday.

So it’s complicated.

What’s not complicated is that UNM will honor Prieto prior to the match.  Prieto in his four years has a 16-12 record in singles, and he has added 20 doubles wins.  His 12 doubles wins in 2022 leads the team.  After the match, UNM will head to Colorado Springs for the first Mountain West Tournament in three years, as UNM will look to win that and the league’s automatic bid into the NCAAs.