Jan. 20, 2012
New Mexico Lobo Men's Tennis - 2012 Spring Preview
Lobo Men's Tennis
Saturday: 4 p.m., Nevada at New Mexico -- Linda Estes Tennis Complex
Monday: 6 p.m., Texas A&M/Corpus Christi - Linda Estes Tennis Complex
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In 2011, the New Mexico Lobos went into their spring season labeled as an underdog with the potential to take a few bites out of the so-called top dogs snapping above them. The Lobos did some quality chewing, but also walked away from 2011 a bit hungry.
This spring the Lobos have a big appetite and don't plan to end the season with any hunger pangs or pangs of regret. This spring, the Lobos should be a top dog.
"We've aged. We've improved and the guys have a fantastic state of mind," said Lobo Coach Alan Dils. "This might be the deepest team I've ever had here. It's a confident team and when we play at our best, we'll be very good.
"We could get into the Top 20."
There isn't much not to like about this year's Lobo team. They have an obvious No. 1 player in Jadon Phillips. There is young talent pushing veteran talent. The Lobos are loaded in doubles returning five of six from 2011.
"We have high expectations," said Dils.
The Lobos lost only one player from last year, Joe Wood, who played No. 6 singles and teamed with Carl Ho to produce a 10-5 doubles mark last spring. It might be difficult to determine which will be the Lobos' strength in 2012 - singles or doubles?
The preferable answer is both, and that could be. "We are better in both doubles and singles this year," said Dils.
The Lobo coach says the UNM doubles' team of Ben Dunbar and Conor Berg "is easily the best No. 2 team in the conference." That duo might be the best doubles team in the Mountain West -- if it wasn't for the Lobo team of Philips and Phil Anderson (No. 16 nationally).
Ho needs to find a new partner and has had success with freshman James Hignett. UNM should put lots of points on the scoreboard in doubles.
The most experienced Lobos coming back are Phillips, Anderson, Berg, Dunbar and Ho. They'll be pushed by a handful of young talent, including freshmen Samir Iftikhar and Hignett, redshirt freshman Mitch McDaniels, and sophomore Mads Hegelund.
"We have a lot of young talent that has given a boost to our entire lineup," said Dils. "The guys are pushing each other and they have a good perspective on the team aspect of it. You can't get everybody in a match and they understand that.
"The five returning guys have all come back better than where they were last year at this point."
As a unit, Phillips, Anderson, Berg, Ho and Dunbar are in their third season as front-line players for UNM. Phillips, Anderson, Dunbar and Berg were All-MW players in 2011. Ho was All-MW in 2010. There are a lot of savvy Lobos on the court.
Anderson and Phillips benefited from a doubles' run they made in the ITA National Indoor Championships held in November in New York City. Anderson and Ho became tourney tough over the summer preparing and competing in the World University Games held in Shenzhen, China. They carried that experience into solid fall seasons.
"Jadon played as good in the fall as I've ever seen him play," said Dils. "His first match (Saturday) is against a (Nevada player), who is ranked higher than him. I hope he's fired up for that one.
"But all of the guys have stepped it up. Phil (Anderson) is playing more big-man, first-strike tennis and that in-your-face style suits him. He's a big strong guy."
Dils says Phillips has a lock on the No. 1 spot heading into spring, but there could be shifting in the lineup as the season progresses.
"Jadon is nationally ranked," said Dils. "It's no secret that he's at the top. But there are peaks and valleys and maybe injuries and we have a lot of guys who can play. We were a little thin last year and we didn't have the depth to deal with slumps or injury. It's different this spring.
"If you are in your matches and winning, I'm not taking you out. If you are struggling, there probably is somebody looking over your shoulder, who is playing well."
The 2011 Mountain crown went to Brigham Young, no longer in the league. Dils says the league once again is strong, but he sees his Lobos, Boise State and TCU as the preseason favorites. The Mountain does not conduct a preseason poll for tennis.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com.
NEW MEXICO LOBOS 2012 ROSTER/STATS
|Phil Anderson||6-2 - 187||Senior - 3L|
|Conor Berg||6-3 - 160||Junior - 2L|
|Evan Corona-Saunders||6-1 - 170||Junior - Redshirt|
|Ben Dunbar||6-foot - 180||Senior - 3L|
|Mads Hegelund||5-10 - 170||Soph. - 1L|
|Simon Hegelund||6-1 - 165||Soph. - 2012 redshirt|
|James Hignett||5-10 - 164||Freshman - HS|
|Carl Ho||5-11 - 160||Senior - 3L|
|Samir Iftikhar||5-10 - 160||Freshman - HS|
|Mitch McDaniels||6-4 - 170||Soph. - 1L|
|Matthew Neeld||5-10 - 180||Senior - 3L|
|Jadon Phillips||5-11 - 163||Junior - 2L|