Cougars overcome early deficit to defeat No. 60 New Mexico

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For long stretches Saturday afternoon, it looked like the No. 39 BYU men’s tennis team was going to pick up its first home defeat of the season.

However, as the team has done all season, the Cougar squad battled back to overcome the No. 60 New Mexico Lobos 5–2 and sealed their ninth consecutive home win at the Indoor Tennis Courts.

BYU's Patrick Kawka hits the ball during Saturday's match against New Mexico at the Indoor Tennis Courts.
BYU’s Patrick Kawka hits the ball during Saturday’s match against New Mexico at the Indoor Tennis Courts. (Photo by Chris Bunker)

“We knew New Mexico was a great team and they’re well coached,” BYU coach Brad Pearce said. “But we responded and fought because we needed to.”

The Cougars (13–4), who have been solid all season in doubles play, sputtered on Saturday and lost the opening point. BYU’s top partnership — junior Patrick Kawka and sophomore Francis Sargeant — were solid again in the No. 1 position and picked up their twelfth win of the season with an 8–4 win against New Mexico’s Conor Berg and Andrew Van Der Vyver.

BYU duo Keaton Cullimore and John Pearce opened up the match with a quick lead, but New Mexico came back to take the win at 8–6. Senior Spencer Smith and junior Travis Fillmore struggled again in their 8–5 loss to Jadon Phillips and Riaan Du Toit.

“I was very disappointed in the way we lost the doubles point,” Coach Pearce said.

No. 42 Kawka opened up singles play for BYU with a dominating win to set the tone for the rest of the team. In his match against Berg, Kawka took early control of the first set and never relinquished it. He won in straight sets, 6–3, 6–3.

With the score even at one, New Mexico’s Samir Iftikhar was slowly taking control of his match after a slow start. He lost the first set 6–2 to BYU’s Smith, but came back to win the next two sets handily 6–1, 6–2.

With the score at 2-1 New Mexico looked like it might be taking control of the match — putting the Cougars winning streak in jeopardy.

New Mexico’s Phillips started out quickly against Sargeant, winning the first set 6–3. Sargeant regained focus, and like last week’s comeback, won the next two sets 6–2, 6–3. The Cougars still had work to do, but the match started to swing back in their favor.

Cullimore struck another blow to New Mexico in his defeat over Du Toit, 6–2, 3–6, 6–4.

“Everybody was out here battling, so I told myself I had to do my best to get a win,” Cullimore said. “I did everything I could to get that win.”

With just one more point needed to secure the victory, BYU picked up wins from freshman Andrey Goryachkov and John Pearce to walk away with another home win and another win against a ranked opponent.

BYU’s hosts San Francisco at the Indoor Tennis Courts on Friday at noon. Admission is free and pizza is provided for spectators.

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