TCU women's tennis coach Dave Borelli expected a rebuilding season this year.
The foundation, walls and roof of a winning team were finished quicker than Borelli expected.
TCU finished its schedule with an 11-match winning streak and Mountain West regular-season and tournament championships. The young Frogs -- TCU's top two players, Stefanie Tan and Simona Parajova, are freshmen -- will be tested again in the regional round of the NCAA Tournament starting today at Duke in Durham, N.C.
"We are going into the NCAAs knowing we are a team that no one wants to play," Borelli said. "That's how we are looking at it. We are worried about ourselves playing well and nobody else."
TCU's turnaround came after two consecutive losses in March, 5-2 defeats at Alabama and at Florida State. Then the Frogs closed the season on their current streak without a conference loss to finish 18-5.
"We've got a long ways to go, but we are certainly headed in the right direction," Borelli said. "We are a team that can be a top 20 team right now when we play to our ability, and we are on our way there. We don't feel the pressure going in."
The Frogs are hoping to add another win to move on to the NCAA second round for the sixth time in school history.
"I'm already really proud of what we have done this year, winning both Mountain West titles," senior Gaby Mastromarino said. "From here on out, it's just icing on the cake."
Mastromarino is TCU's only senior and one of two players on the roster with NCAA Tournament experience.
"Playing in the tournament is all about fighting hard and not letting the pressure get to you," Mastomarino said. "We have younger players, but all of us have been in other pressure situations. We will all fight for the team."
Sophomore Millie Nichols is TCU's other player with postseason experience; she played for Tennessee as a freshman before transferring.
"We have to go out, have fun and play hard," Nichols said. "I feel comfortable going in, because I know what to expect because I played in regionals at Tennessee. I'm ready to compete."
TCU will play South Carolina in the first round, a rematch from TCU's last regional appearance, when the Frogs lost 4-2 in 2010. The winner will play either Duke or Winthrop for a spot in the Sweet 16.
"It's a whole different ballgame with completely different teams from two years ago," Borelli said. "But it's exciting because we are two evenly-matched teams."
For Mastromarino, who wants to finish her final season with the Frogs on a high note, playing South Carolina is fitting.
"Remembering losing to them gives me great motivation to get past them into the second round," she said. "I feel like our team this year is really strong, and we have a lot of momentum going into this match."
Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760