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Jhang's Miracle Win Propels Lobos to 6-0 Start

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Everyone associated with New Mexico women’s tennis knew that Katherine Jhang was a really good player with two legs.  Apparently, she’s pretty good with only one.

Jhang, who suffered a thigh injury in her opening set of singles, willed herself into a miraculous, improbable, and highly unlikely three-set win to give New Mexico a stunning 4-3 win over Northern Arizona.  Jhang not only did it on one good leg, she did it down 0-3 in the third set.

The Lobos took a 1-0 lead in doubles with a 2-1 doubles win as Jhang and Leonie Hoppe blitzed Ana Campos and Daryna Shoshyna 6-1 and Hsuan Huang and Maria Sodre won 6-2 over Laura Duhl and Patryca Niewiadomska at No. 2 doubles.

With the point secure, NAU took a doubles win when Ava Neyestani and Dolavee Tumthong won 6-3 over Maud and Bente Vandeputte.

That sent the match to singles, and in the opening set, Jhang went down midway through her set, clutching her left thigh.  Athletic Trainer Morgan Adams eventually wrapped up her thigh for her to continue, but Jhang couldn’t move well, and she lost her set 6-4, and it looked like she would probably retire.

The issue was that UNM could ill afford to just hand over an easy win as only Huang and Hoppe won their opening sets.

Hoppe, who clinched the 4-3 win at NAU a year ago, had zero issues with Neyestani, winning 6-1, 6-4 to make it 2-0, although NAU got that one back rather quickly with a 6-3, 6-1 at No. 6 by Andrea Noguera over Bente Vandeputte.

Sarah O’Connor trailed 5-0 out of the gate, but made it a match, losing 6-2, 7-5, evening things at 2-2.

Jhang was limping along (literally at 2-2), somehow returning shots and letting anything cross-court go without a chase to save her leg.  The good thing is it looked like her match might not matter as Maud Vandeputte found a different gear, winning 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 to make it 3-2.  As she was winning, somehow, Jhang was able to finagle a 7-5 second set win, and she took all of the time allowed to sit before her third set.

The good news was Hsuan Huang was up 2-0 in her third set, but disaster struck as she dropped five of the next six games to trail 5-3.  She saved a match point at deuce to make it 5-4, but she couldn’t do it again at deuce, losing 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 to Ana Campos.

That made it 3-3, but Jhang was down 3-0 and serving down 0-30.  She took advantage of back-to-back returns into the net by her opponent Shoshyna to even things up.  After a Shohyna passing shot, Jhang faced two break points, but she turned suddenly into a one-legged brick wall, staying as close to the middle of the court as possible, and just returning everything she could.

Anything to the side of her she could get to she tried to pop up to give herself time to get back into the middle.  When rallies were long, she would hit a badminton-like lob return to slow things down.

Unbelievably, it worked.  Shoshyna hit two returns long, and it was 3-1.  Jhang then broke serve, twice hitting drop shots that were unreturned.  Finally, Shoshyan went long and wide to make it 3-2 and suddenly Jhang was on serve.

After making it 3-3, Jhang just kept hanging in there, forcing a deuce point.  After the first serve of Shoshyna went long, the ball bounded back into the court.  Jhang walked back to get the ball off the court, only to have Shoshyna serve.

That point was replayed, but it showed that Jhang was getting to NAU.  She won that replayed point and had another service break and a 4-3 lead.

Down 0-15, Jhang took advantage of a critical mistake to even the eighth game at 15-15.  Shoshyna had Jhang limping across the court to Jhang’s left.  After she returned that Shoshyna went the other way and Jhang returned it but had nothing in her leg to stop her, returning the ball to the net but basically conceding the point.

Shoshyha, with the entire court at her disposal, hit it long.  Jhang had no idea until her teammates told her, putting a wry smile on her face.  She rode that bizarre point to a 5-3 lead, and then she had two match points.

Shoshyna was able to save them both.  The first, her cross-court shot ticked the net cord and hit the line, and Jhang had no shot at the return.  Then Shoshyna hit a perfect drop shot that Jhang was able to limp over to, but she could only hit it into the net and it was 5-4.

Jhang then went up 40-15 on serve, and after hitting a ball well out, Jhang just volleyed until Shoshyna hit long.  The ensuing celebration was subdued with Lobos on either side of Court 2 streaming to Jhang, but not wanting to hurt her worse.

The win was UNM’s third 4-3 win in the last four matches, and it was the second time in three matches that Jhang clinched a match with everything even at 3-3.

The Lobos, who had their Sunday match with Abilene Christian postponed due to excessive illness/injury in the Wildcat program, will play three matches next week, with two on Friday at UC Riverside and UC Irvine and then a Sunday home match with UTEP at 11 am at McKinnon.

NOTES: Hoppe bounced back from back-to-back losses in Spokane … UNM’s 6-0 start is the best since starting 12-0 in 1998.