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Lobos Ready for Title Run in Colorado Springs

by Frank Mercogliano

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.. — the New Mexico Lobos finished Mountain West play 3-3.  They could have just as easily finished 6-0.  The issue is almost every other team could make that same claim, and that’s why the first Mountain West Tournament in three years is shaping up to be a dozy, and any one of the seven teams can come out on top.

It starts for UNM on Friday when it takes on No. 6 Boise State in Colorado Springs at 11 am.


No. 1: Arda Azkara (13-9, 8-5 at No. 1, 0-1 at No. 2)
One of four freshmen to earn Mountain West Freshman of the Week honors, Azkara moved quickly into the No. 1 slot and has stayed there all season.  He had a five-match winning streak mid-season, and his record is deceiving as he was leading or tied in all six halted matches this season.

No. 2: Rafael Abdulsalam (10-14, 0-2 at No. 1, 6-6 at No. 2, 0-1 at No. 3)
Abdulsalam is one of three returners, but he has never played in a Mountain West Tournament.  He hasa settled into the No. 2 slot and turned in some key wins including wins over Boise State and a clincher over UNLV.  He’s won two of his last three, and had match point for a third win when the San Diego State match ended.

No. 3: Aram Noroozian (6-8, 1-1 at No. 2, 5-7 at No. 3)
Noroozian joined the team at the semester break and bounced back from a 1-5 start and is now playing his best tennis.  He picked up a nice win over Utah State in his last outing, and he also has won a MW Freshman of the Week Award.  He’s won five of his last eight.

No. 4: Jan Pucalka (9-6, 0-2 at No. 4, 9-2 at No. 5, 0-1 at No. 6)
Moving up three weeks ago to No. 4 , Pucalka is a third Mountain West Freshman of the Week winner.  His record at No. 4 is deceiving as he led handily in both unfinished matches and he was leading in four of his six.

No. 5: Alex Maggs (6-11, 0-1 at No. 3, 2-5 at No. 4, 1-3 at No. 5)
Maggs has run into some tough luck of late, but he ended a six-match losing streak with a two-set win over UNLV.  He is 1-2 in his return to No. 5, and he would be 2-2 if his match with Boise State potentially played out as he was leading.

No.6: Georgio Samaha (16-8, 0-1 at No. 5, 10-4 at No. 6)
UNM’s fourth Mountain West Freshman of the Week, Samaha is the team leader in singles wins, conference wins and wins within a flight. He is 11-2 in his last 13 decisions, and he hasn’t lost back-to-back matches since the opening week of the season, which bodes well coming off a heart-breaking tiebreak loss on Saturday.


No. 1 (Azkara/Nicolas Prieto, 8-9, 3-6 at No. 1, 5-3 at No. 2)
The team flip-flopped from No. 2 to No. 1 and have been in just about every match.  Prieto has turned into a doubles specialist and his 12 doubles wins is tied for the team lead.

No. 2 (Maggs/Pucalka, 9-8, 2-5 at No. 1, 6-2 at No. 2)
This pairing has worked at No. 2 doubles, winning six of eight matches, and their work-ethic and their excitement and fiery demeanor serves as a catalyst for the squad.

No. 3 (Abdulsalam/Samaha, 10-3, 10-3 at No. 3)
This pairing never played together until the spring, and it has totally worked.  The twosome could have up to 14 wins, and easily leads the team in pairing wins and flight wins.