Stevens: New Mexico Men's Tennis 2012 Season Review

May 14, 2012

New Mexico Men's Tennis - 2012 Season Review

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

Without a doubt, the success of Alan Dils' Lobos this spring season had a lot to do with pure talent. These Lobos were good, motivated and passionate about winning.

But possibly the depth of that talent was the most telling thing about the 19-8 season the New Mexico Lobos kicked out in 2012.

Consider this: Of the nine Lobos who played at least 15 singles matches in helping New Mexico post that 19-8 season mark, all nine had a winning record with Conor Berg going 26-8 and Carl Ho going 24-9.

"We went into the season expecting our depth to be good and that proved to be true," said Dils.

Berg's 26 wins matched the 26 wins Jadon Phillips posted in 2010-11. The team mark is 37 set by Divian Coetzee in 2003-04.

The Lobos also duplicated that feat in doubles with nine players competing in at least 15 doubles matches and all nine posting winning marks.

Dils had five players - Berg, Ho, Ben Dunbar (20-15), Mads Hegelund (21-8) and Samir Iftikhar (21-9) - slip into 20-plus win territory in singles play.

In doubles, UNM again had five players win 20 games or more: Berg (25-9), Dunbar (27-9), James Hignett (30-9), Ho (25-8) and Phillips (21-12). Phil Anderson went 19-9 in doubles. Hignett's 30 wins (.769 percent) is the fourth all-time best in program history.

The UNM doubles team of Phillips/Anderson posted a 17-8 mark and will represent New Mexico at the NCAA Championships being held in Athens, Ga., May 23-28.

Dils is happy that Lobo duo made it to the NCAA finals, but the exclusion of New Mexico as a team did not sit well with the Lobo coach.

"I think our team was good enough and competitive enough, but we didn't get the ranking we needed," said Dils. "The teams on our schedule are traditionally ranked, but this year they didn't have their usual seasons. That hurt us.

"I believe we had a Top 40 team talent wise. That just wasn't reflected in the rankings. That's part of scheduling, part of the art and luck of scheduling."

The best way to reach the NCAA finals is to win the Mountain West title and grab the league's at-large bid. Boise State (then ranked No. 38) defeated the Lobos in the conference finals to grab that guaranteed bid. The next route is to be ranked in the Top 40 and snag at at-large invite.

"You are usually safe at Top 40," said Dils. "You always want to win your conference, but after that you shoot for Top 40."

The Lobos finished the pre-NCAA tournament season ranked No. 62. The Lobos had a big 4-1 win over San Diego State in the MW semifinals on the Aztecs' home court. It was a win that avenged an earlier 4-3 loss to the Aztecs in San Diego. UNM also won the 2012 HEB Invitational held in Corpus Christi, Texas.

The 2012 All-MWC team included Dunbar and Phillips in singles with the Anderson/Phillips and Berg/Dunbar teams being named to All-MWC doubles.

Dils said one pleasant aspect of his team's depth came in the 4-5-6 positions where Carl Ho and Samir Iftikhar usually came through with win. Ho went 17-4 combined in the No. 5 and No. 6 positions (not counting Tour matches). Iftikhar went 10-3 in positions No. 4 and No. 5 in regular-season dual matches.

Ho, a senior, leaves UNM with 63 wins and his 24 total wins this season were his most as a Lobo. Ho was named a Mountain West Player of The Week and also was the Mountain Region winner of the Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship award.

Conor Berg -- 26 wins

"Carl had a great year and he is a tremendous person and teammate," said Dils. "Other than Senior Player of The Year, the sportsmanship award is the most prestigious award you can win in our region. It says a lot about your character and how your opponents perceive you on the court.

"Carl played every position for us as a Lobo. He goes down to No. 6 this season and quietly gives you everything he has. We went into every match thinking, `Hey, we got Carl's point.' Carl never complains and just goes out there and competes. He brings everything he has to the court and that's for a match or for practice.

"Sami (Samir) was the same way. He was hurt earlier in the season, but found his spot at five and we knew we were going to win a lot of matches at five."

Dils' assistant, Bart Scott, was named the Mountain's Assistant Coach of The Year by the ITA. Ho also won the ITA/Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award.

The Lobos posted a stellar 173-97 mark in singles (.641 percent) and went 97-40 in doubles. The doubles team of Berg/Dunbar went 13-1 in the No. 2 hole.

Dils said two unsung heroes on this year's squad were Mads Hegelund (21-8) and Mitch McDaniels (12-8). "Whenever we had to call on them to fill a hole, they did a great job," said Dils. "They have a lot of passion for the game and tremendous work ethics and I expect them both to have expanded roles next year."

Dils loses four seniors off this season's roster: Ho, Anderson, Dunbar and Matthew Neeld.