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Lobo Bounce Nevada to Stay Unbeaten in MW Play

by Frank Mercogliano

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Trying to beat New Mexico in Albuquerque is like a math equation, and no one else has really been able to solve it.  Nevada couldn’t as UNM’s steady three of Arda Azkara, Aram Noroozian and Georgio Samaha did what they do, win in singles, and Nikolay Sysoev joined them with a stirring comeback win to give the Lobos a 4-1 win over the Wolf Pack.  That win pushed UNM into a first place tie with Boise State (the Broncos are 17-4 overall and 3-0 in the Mountain West), moving UNM to 11-5 overall and 2-0 in the league.

Nevada fell to 8-6 overall and 2-1 in the Mountain West.  Nevada is the defending regular season and tournament champions of the Mountain West.

The Lobos only point lost was in doubles, where only Azkara and Alex Maggs were victorious.  UNM suffered a wrenching defeat at No. 3 as Rafael Abdulsalam and Ryoma Matsushita lost 6-4 after falling behind 4-0, losing on a 40-40 deuce point in all four opening games.

In singles though, its hard to beat the Lobos.  Azkara has never lost a home match playing at No. 1 in his entire two-year career, and he prevailed once again with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Delmas N’Tcha.  Then you have to two hottest players going in Noroozian and Samaha.  Aram, playing at No. 3, won 6-1, 6-3, cruising to a 12th win in his last 14 matches.  For Samaha, in front of friends and family, he won handily 6-1, 7-5 to earn his team-best 21st win of the season, and his 12th win in his last 13 matches.

That meant UNM needed one more, but all three on-going matches saw UNM lose the opening set, with Sysoev losing his in a tiebreak 8-6, failing on two set points (but staving off five others as he trailed 5-1) and with Matsushita losing in a tiebreak 9-7 (having set point at 7-6).

With Abdulsalam dangerous close to losing, down 5-2, Sysoev continued to pound the strike zone as it were, moving his opponent Loriz Zisswiller all around the court.  That strategy worked perfectly as after falling behind in the opening set 5-1, Sysoev won 17 of the final 23 games, winning 6-7 (6-8), 6-2, 6-3 to clinch the win, and perhaps earn himself a third MW Freshman of the Week honor.

Now UNM heads on the road for a huge weekend, taking on Boise State on Friday at 4 p.m. in a showdown of the last two unbeatens in the league.  UNM then faces Utah State in Logan at noon on Sunday.

NOTES: Azkara is now 10-5 at No. 1 singles … UNM is 7-0 in MW singles so far … Samaha is a perfect 8-0 at No. 5 this season.