With the TCU men’s tennis team leading North Carolina 2-1 in the NCAA Elite Eight match, senior Arnau Dachs stole a glance over at the adjacent court, contrary to his normal routine of blocking out other matches.
He witnessed freshman Cameron Norrie fight off North Carolina junior Brett Clark in a second-set tiebreaker and send the match into a third set.
Norrie’s match ultimately wouldn’t count toward the TCU’s 4-1 victory, sending the fifth-seeded Horned Frogs to their first Final Four appearance since 2001.
But it gave Dachs the spark to finish his match 6-4, 7-5, landing TCU’s final blow.
“You get pumped in a way that is like ‘we’re there, we still have the control of it,’” Dachs said of Norrie’s rally. “Whenever you have those games, you can focus more in your job and you’re not thinking about the overall score and all that stuff.”
TCU’s senior class got the job done Saturday at Baylor’s Hurd Tennis Center, tallying all three of the Horned Frogs’ singles points against the 13th-seeded Tar Heels (24-11). The senior tandem of Nick Chappell and Facundo Lugones also secured the doubles point by rallying and winning a deciding tiebreaker set.
Down to a 6-5 match point, Chappell rattled off two big serves to give TCU (25-7) the advantage. Lugones followed with a key return on the next point that forced a North Carolina shot into the net, ending the match and giving TCU its second doubles win in the best-of-three.
Norrie and Trevor Johnson took their doubles match 8-6 before the senior pair’s victory.
Chappell’s and Lugones’ experience was key in the win. It was only their second match together .
“Obviously it’s a big match, but we were having fun out there,” Chappell said. “We were just going after their shots and having fun, so we didn’t really feel anything.”
The doubles point has been pivotal for TCU this season. It entered Saturday’s match with a 5-0 record against teams ranked in the Top 25 when earning that initial score.
The seniors followed their key performance in doubles by claiming TCU’s first two singles points.
Lugones defeated sophomore Jack Murray 6-3, 6-1 for TCU’s second overall point, followed shortly by Chappell’s 6-4, 6-2 win over 11th-ranked Brayden Schnur.
“Nick Chappell stepped up huge,” TCU coach David Roditi said. “We always talk about cutting the snake’s head and Nick did exactly that.”
Freshman Guillermo Nuñez, who led TCU in singles wins with 27 heading into Saturday, let his inexperience get the best of him, losing to Ronnie Schneider 7-6 (5), 6-1.
“He’s raw,” Roditi said. “He’s such a great player that he’s been able to win so many matches. He’s been amazing for us all year long. He may even be our MVP. Today, he broke down. That’s OK. I know he’s going to learn from that, and he will be back better and stronger on Monday.”
All focus turned to Dachs, who completed the senior trifecta with a backhand just inside the line, sending TCU to its fourth Final Four all time against top-ranked Oklahoma at 1 p.m. Monday in Waco.
“That’s the beauty about today’s win,” Roditi said. “It was a completely different group than maybe it was in other matches when you have Nuñez and Norrie stepping up in the singles. Today, they allowed other guys to step up, and that’s what makes a good team, that you can get points at any position at any time. It gives us depth and makes us tough to beat.”