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Lobos Host Nevada in First Place Showdown

by Frank Mercogliano

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If you were asked a trivia question of which three teams in the Mountain West are still unbeaten after the opening weekend, most folks would guess Boise State and New Mexico for certain, being the two ranked teams, and Nevada, the reigning Mountain West champions.

There will be a pre-match tailgate area for tennis fans with a food truck and music.  That tailgate starts at 11 am, and is part of a fun day at the UNM Spring Sports Complex, as Lobo baseball and softball will also be playing at noon on Saturday.

They’d be right.  After this weekend, only two will be unbeaten as the 10-5, 1-0 New Mexico Lobos host the 8-5, 2-0 Nevada Wolf Pack in a matchup that should go a long way to determining the Mountain West regular season champion.  In a season in which there are only six conference matches, each one is important, and the Lobos will be looking to exact a little revenge for a bitter defeat in the Mountain West title match.

That Nevada has five is its six singles players back, and UNM has five of its six back brings an air of familiarity to the two teams.  Last year in the championship UNM was down 3-1, owning just the doubles point, when it rallied back behind Aram Noroozian (who came back from down 4-2 in the third) and Georgio Samaha (who was down 5-4 in the third).  They tied it up at 3-3, and Jan Pucalka served a match point at 5-4 for a break of serve against Satchel Benn to make it 5-5.  Pucalka was broke back and then lost the 7-5 to allowe Nevada to escape with the title.

This match isn’t for an NCAA berth, but it is for a potential share of the conference lead with Boise State, which hosts Air Force Saturday at noon as well.  Both UNM and Nevada have wins over Air Force, and Nevada also has a conference win over Utah State.  The Wolf Pack opened their season 1-5 before ripping off seven straight wins that started with a 4-1 non-conference win over UNLV in the ASU Team Tournament, the same tournament that UNM played in.

For the Lobos, a doubles point would be of great importance, having gone 5-1 when taking the doubles point, and going 5-4 without it.  The Lobos are also at home, where they are 4-1 this season.  Being at home means good things as Arda Azkara is unbeaten in his career at home when playing at No. 1, and both Aram Noroozian and Georgio Samaha are on tears, with Noroozian 11-2 in his last 13 and Samaha 12-2 in his last 14.