Utah upsets New Mexico by one point

Mennis-cropped Colby Patterson
Ben Tasevac competes at the Eccles Tennis Center on Jan. 18. Photo by Chris Samuels.

Ben Tasevac competes at the Eccles Tennis Center on Jan. 18. Photo by Chris Samuels.

The Utah men’s tennis team battled hard for two wins over the weekend as it played both Cal Poly and New Mexico in Albuquerque.

The Utes easily took down the Mustangs of Cal Poly on Saturday with a 4-0 victory. The following day proved to be a bigger challenge for Utah, as the Lobos gave the Utes a hard-fought battle from start to finish. With the teams tied 3-3, Utah senior Ben Tasevac took his singles match to seize the win for the Utes.

“You never know how you are going to do on the road for the first time,” said Utah head coach F.D. Robbins. “It was a good win, and the guys played hard.”

The Utes started the weekend off by blowing away the Mustangs, as they won everything except one doubles matchup. With the doubles point gained, Utah only needed to win three of the six singles matches to claim victory for the day.

The Utes won their first three matchups without problems. Freshman Patrick Mayer was first to win, followed by senior Alejandro Medinilla and junior Cedric Willems. With all four points needed to take the win, the rest of the matchups were not necessary and were not finished.

“We played pretty well the first day,” Robbins said.

Sunday did not start as well for Utah as it lost the doubles point by a 2-1 score. The two lost matches were decided on tiebreakers. Robbins said he didn’t see any bad play from his doubles teams, but the ball just bounced New Mexico’s way.

The Utes then got behind 2-0 on the day when Medinilla lost to Hayden Sabatka. Utah rallied, though, claiming three of the next four matches to tie things up at three apiece. One of those Ute victories came from Slim Hamza, who beat No. 45 Samir Iftikhkar.

“We played well, we just needed a break,” Robbins said. “I told them, ‘The match isn’t over until someone wins four points.’ ”

The tie score set up the dramatic finish as Tasevac took on Mitch McDaniels. Robbins let his player know the entire match was on the line.

“I like the pressure, but in the moment of the match I kind of zone out,” Tasevac said.

The crowd and both teams gathered to watch Tasevac win his match and give Utah the final point needed to put away the Lobos.

“I was pleased and really proud of the guys to bounce back like that,” Robbins said.

The Utes were ranked No. 75 going into the match, which made the win over No. 67 New Mexico a bit of an upset. Even so, Robbins and his team don’t pay too much attention to the rankings. Both he and Tasevac said the rankings don’t mean much because they haven’t played enough ranked teams for the numbers to be accurate.

Utah’s next match will be a double-header against Montana and Montana State. The matches will take place on Saturday at 12 p.m. and 5 p.m at the Eccles Tennis Center. Robbins has yet to decide the lineup for the double header but said he has a mature team who has done it before.

“We are hungry to get another win,” Tasevac said.

d.garcia@chronicle.utah.edu