January 19, 2014
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Lobos clinched the championship title of the Ned and Tina Jacobs Lobo Tennis Winter Kickoff after going undefeated against UC Irvine, Arizona, and Texas A&M Corpus Christi this weekend at the Linda Estes Tennis Complex. The University of New Mexico wrapped up the event with a perfect 6-0 record.
The season-opening event brought plenty of firsts for the Lobos. The Ned and Tina Jacobs Kickoff was the first time that freshmen Hayden Sabatka and Rodolfo Jauregui had ever competed in an official collegiate dual match. How did the young Lobos respond? Sabatka and Jauregui might be new, but they both went undefeated against their opponents. The two freshmen finished with individual records of 6-0.
This was also the first time that any of the competitors played with the new USTA proposed experimental format. The event began with six matches of singles unlike the usual format that begins with doubles. The two opponents played until one team reached four points. If the teams tied 3-3, then they had to play three doubles matches in overtime. Whoever picked up the first two out of three wins in doubles would claim the match. This new format made things more intense and certainly more exciting.
“I think the new format is brilliant,” TAMUCC Head Coach Steve Moore said. “I give a ton of credit to Alan Dils and Bart Scott for deciding to use it. It really is the most smart and efficient format. It is beneficial to everyone. It is beneficial to the teams because we get more ranked opportunities. It is beneficial to the crowd because they see more sudden death. We still keep the player development aspects because we still keep all of the singles. It’s a win, win, win. To me, it is what we need to be doing. All of these other sports have made savvy adjustments to their game to be fan and television friendly and it is time that we make some of those changes.”
While it seemed to have some perks to it, not everyone seemed fully convinced that it was the best format for college tennis.
“We didn’t play doubles today and I’m not sure how I feel about that,” Arizona Head Coach and former Lobo Tad Berkowitz said. “I’m still trying to figure it out, but I am open to any new format that can help college tennis and help cut the time down.”
Finding a new format that works for everybody will be a long process and will take a lot of patience and experimenting. UNM’s effort in trying out the USTA format will be a huge help towards finding the format that works for all teams across the nation. For the time being, it brought a lot of intensity and thrill to the Ned and Tina Jacobs Kickoff.
The Lobos never had to compete in a doubles overtime as they managed to beat every team to the first four points in every singles match.
The Lobos’ success was a combined effort from strong veterans and confident young players. Samir Iftikhar, Mads Hegelund and James Hignett all stepped up as juniors and seniors and helped pick up some wins early in the matches. Sabatka and Jauregui made some strong contributions of their own in the number three and four spots of the lineup. Freshman Bryan Cunningham also competed in his first dual match, but the match went unfinished due to the four-point rule.
“The team did very well to go 6-0 against this quality of competition,” Head Coach Alan Dils said. “Most of the guys on the team are playing very well, even better than I could have even expected at this point. Hayden and Rodolfo did a great job in their first dual matches. James also did an excellent job. He is playing very mature, disciplined tennis. He was an absolute rock. Sammy and Mads also did a great job this weekend.”
The Lobos are off to a strong start in 2014.
Come support the Lobos this Friday, Jan. 24 as they take on Cal Poly at 5:00 p.m. at the Linda Estes Tennis Complex.