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Lobos Sweep Boise State, Advance to Semifinals

by Frank Mercogliano

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — UNM is going to have to hope the third time is the charm.  New Mexico swept past Boise State 4-0 for the second time this season, and UNM now gets a third shot at the Utah State Aggies as UNM and USU will meet up in one Mountain West semifinal on Saturday at 11 a.m. in Colorado Springs.

The Lobos in taking down the Broncos moved to 10-12 on the season and the win came on the day that UNM was feted with a couple of postseason honors as Arda Azkara was named Co-Freshman of the Year as well as All-Mountain West in singles and doubles.  Nicolas Prieto was also named All-Mountain West in doubles.

That pairing picked up a 6-4 win in doubles at No. 1 over Pedro Liborio and Caden Moortgat to get UNM off on the right foot, clinching the doubles point.  Despite the match moving up an hour to beat the winds (which were still very prevalent for anyone watching the live stream with it howling into the various microphones), UNM showed no lag or slowness afoot.  UNM’s other doubles win was a 6-2 win at No. 2 by Alex Maggs and Jan Pucalka over Jan Lucca Marquardt and Ryo Minakata.

From there, the Lobos were able to take control of the match by winning five of the six opening sets, including all three that went to tiebreakers.  Each tiebreaker was different.  Rafael Abdulsalam, who wound up clinching the victory, missed two chances at 5-2 and 5-4 to clinch his opening set.  Down 6-5, he broke Simon Arca-Costas and then won all seven points in the tiebreaker.

Alex Maggs, who didn’t get to finish his match, won 7-5.  However it was the tiebreak at No. 4 between Pucalk and Moortgat that was the wild one.  Down 6-5, Pucalka served himself into the tiebreaker, and then it was crazy from there.  Moortgat took a 5-1 lead at the first break before Pucalka scored four straight to tie things at 5-5.  Moortgat couldn’t convert on four set points, and Pucalka missed on his first three, but he forced a shot wide on the 26th point of the set for a wild 14-12 win.

That put UNM in the drivers seat and they cruised from there.  Aram Noroozian kept up his hot play with a simple 6-2, 6-0 win over Lucca Marqurdt, winning 24 of the 35 points in the final set.  After the crazy 26-point tiebreak, Pucalk won the second set 6-2 to give UNM a 3-0 lead, and it was really a race to see who would finish first, Abdulsalam or Georgio Samaha, and it turned out to be Abdulsalam.  He won 7-6 (7-0), 6-3 to clinch to 4-0 win.  Samaha was up 6-3, 4-6, 5-2 and both Alex Maggs and Arda Azkara were in third sets, with Maggs not having started his and Azkara on serve at 4-6, 7-5, 1-2.

Azkara match being even with Liborio made sense as they were the two Co-winners of Mountain West Freshmen of the Year.

Now UNM will face Utah State, whom its 0-2 against.  The Lobos lost 4-1 in February, but in the regular season finale lost 4-3, not able to clinch with a 3-0 lead, twice failing on match point.  To get to the final, UNM will fittingly have to surpass the team that has turned into their menace on the year.  Match links will be provided via twitter Saturday morning as it will depend on weather.