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Hoppe Springs Eternal, Clinches 4-3 Win Over UNLV

by Frank Mercogliano

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Leonie Hoppe is starting to get used to this.  For a second straight match, Leonie Hoppe turned in a clinching victory, this time in a tied match to give UNM a 4-3 victory over UNLV, ending a 19-year drought to the Rebels in which UNM had lost 16 straight over those 19 years.

The win pushed UNM to 12-1 on the season and 1-0 in the Mountain West, while UNLV dropped to 6-5 overall and 0-1.  UNM hosted Colorado State on Sunday at 11 am while UNLV travels to Air Force on Sunday.

The Lobos, as they have been want to do all season long, blitzed their opponent in doubles for an early 1-0 lead.  Hoppe and Katherine Jhang took a 6-0 win over Zita Kovacs and Hanna Vinahradava and Hsuan Huang and Maria Sodre picked up a 6-2 win over Cindy Hu and Coco Zhao for the point and the lead.

For Huang, it marked her 61st career doubles win at UNM.

Up 1-0, the Lobos would need just three singles wins, and they got halfway there as Jhang in her second match at No. 1 took the opening set over Kovacs 7-5.  Maud Vandeputte rolled to a 6-2 opening set over Nikol Mircheva, and Hoppe went to a tiebreaker, winning 7-4.

That matched UNLV’s three first set wins as Salsa Asher won her opening set at No. 2 singles in a tiebreak over Sarah O’Connor 7-4 and Cindy Hu beat Huang 6-4.  The weirdest match of all was going on at No. 6 singles, where Aura Fang won her first set 6-1 over Bente Vandeputte.  They flipped that in the second, with Bente rolling to a 6-0 win.

Maud finished off Mircheva 6-2, 6-1 for a 2-0 lead but UNLV responded with Hu was able to complete her match 6-4, 6-2 over Huang.

Jhang, the final match in the west bubble, won her second straight match at No. 1, winning 7-5, 6-1 to give UNM a 3-1 lead.

That lead dissipated as O’Connor battled but ultimately lost 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 and Bente lost in a bizarre 6-1, 0-6, 6-1 score.

That left everything to Hoppe at No. 5 singles, where she and Coco Zhao were locked in a tight match.  Down 3-2, Hoppe got a break when a code violation led to the deciding point, evening the second set at 3-3.  Down 4-3, Hoppe took the lead when Zhao twice hit long for game point to make it 5-4.

With Zhao serving to stay alive and down Love-15, she had Hoppe on the run with back-to-back corner baseline shots, the second of which Hoppe got a piece of, lobbing it just over the net.  Zhao let it bounce and then inexplicably hit her shot wide with Hoppe dead to rights, making to Love-30.

Hoppe got it to 30-40 and on match point, she volleyed steady and Zhao tried a passing shot to her backhand but hit it low and into the net, touching off a wild celebration 19 years in the making.

New Mexico’s last win over UNLV came on March 27, 2005, just 12 days short of 19 years or 6,929 day between wins over UNLV.  All told it was just UNM’s sixth ever win over UNLV in 29 tries.