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Lobos Down Broncos to Take Over First Place

by Frank Mercogliano

BOISE, Idaho — Nikolay Sysoev might just have his sights on Mountain West Player of the Week … forget this freshman stuff.  The lone rookie on the Lobo squad looked nothing of the sort, coming back from a 4-2 deficit in the second set to broke opponent Ryo Minakata and clinch a 4-3 win on the road over the No. 61 Boise State Broncos.  The win leaves UNM as the sole unbeaten team in the Mountain West, and the Lobo can wrap up a third conference title in four seasons with wins in two of their final three matches.

Their first shot at that will come Sunday when UNM takes on Utah State at noon in Logan.  The win for UNM marked the second straight in which it ended an opponents long winning streak.  Boise State entered the match having won 10 in a row.  Last week, UNM ended Nevada’s seven-match winning streak.

The Lobos were able to take three of six singles matches, and that was all they needed as UNM swept the doubles point.  They got the first half when Arda Azkara and Alex Maggs took a 6-4 win over Sam Sippel and Simon Arca Costas, the final point on duece when Maggs came to the net and put a shot away into the back fence.  With that he tossed his racquet down, chest bumped Azkara, and this match was on.

Georgio Samaha and Ryo Matsushita clinched a 1-0 lead with a 7-5 win, and from there, every singles match went straight sets, although for a while, it looked like Boise State took four of the first six opening sets.  That’s because, much like four years ago in 2019, the score published was reversed.  Four years ago, in a 3-3 match in which the final singles match was 4-4, rain forced a change of venue.  That time, UNM ultimately won 7-5, but it was published that Boise State had won.  It wasn’t until a half hour later that everything got corrected.  This time, it was Sysoev who won his first set 6-4, but the livestats had that score reversed well into the second set.  Those at home got a pleasant surprise when it was corrected.

All six singles matches were two set affairs.  Aram Noroozian gave UNM a 2-0 lead with a 6-2, 6-1 win, but the Broncos took a pair of wins at No. 2 and No. 4 singles to even things up.  Azkara won against at No. 1 to give UNM a short-lived 3-2 lead before James Van Herzeele won over Matsushita to tied things up.

With Sysoev down 4-2 down in the second, the first set score was corrected for fans at home.  Sysoev was able to get the match back to 4-4 after a break at 4-2, and down 5-4, he never faced a set point.  He held serve, sending his opponent Minakata side-to-side.  Up 6-5 after the change, Sysoev was steady, constantly returning Minakata’s powerful two-handed forehands, and staying alive was the best strategy, as Minakata twice went into the net to give Sysoev and the Lobos match point.  After a rush to the net sent Minakata deep into the corner to save a shot, Sysoev lined it up, and drilled a slam into the ground and over Minakata’s head for the win.

With it, his Lobo teammates jumped the fence and mobbed him, sending a solid crowd home disappointed.

NOTES:  Sysoev evened his record to 6-6, but 2-0 at No. 6 singles … Samaha suffered his first loss of the season at No. 5 against eight wins … Noroozian is now 13-2 in his last 15 … Azkara and Maggs have won four straight at No. 1 doubles … UNM is now 14-2 in the spring at No. 6 singles.