Doubles shake-up paying off for TCU tennis at NCAA Championship

TCU’s Facundo Lugones will pair with Nick Chappell in a doubles match against North Carolina.
TCU’s Facundo Lugones will pair with Nick Chappell in a doubles match against North Carolina. Special to the Star-Telegram

Seniors Nick Chappell and Will Stein have been quite the item for the TCU men’s tennis team the past three years.

They have held down the first doubles court for the majority of their careers at TCU, holding a 68-39 record together. Before this season they had an 11-6 record against ranked opponents.

Heading into the NCAA Tournament, however, the two hit a skid, going 3-7 in their previous 10 matches.

TCU coach David Roditi thought it was time to mix things up Thursday during TCU’s 4-0 win in the round of 16 against Wake Forest, matching Chappell with senior Facundo Lugones on the second court.

The result was the coveted doubles point, which pushed TCU to make quick work of the singles matches and advance to TCU’s first Elite Eight since 2001.

“We needed Will Stein and Nick Chappell to have an affair to spark their marriage a little bit,” Roditi said with a laugh. “Bring a little bit of life into the relationship. We let Nick cheat with Lugones and maybe that will spark it again or maybe it will break them up. You never know.”

It appears the affair will continue as TCU faces 13th-seeded North Carolina at 10 a.m. Saturday (moved up from noon) at Hurd Tennis Center in Waco, Roditi said.

“I’m expecting them to have the same lineup and so do we,” he said. “At this point, every team kind of already has shown what we have got. There’s not too many hidden moves.”

That doubles point, the first overall team point in a race to four, proved pivotal in the championship as all eight teams that advanced to the quarterfinals took two out of three doubles matches to earn the point.

This season TCU was 2-5 against teams ranked in the top 25 when it lost the doubles point. The Horned Frogs were a perfect 5-0 when winning the point.

North Carolina, which advanced with a 4-1 victory over Illinois, is 52-19 in doubles matches this season, led by the pairing of Jack Murray and Ronnie Schneider with a 21-7 overall record. However, as a team, the Tar Heels are just 6-9 against ranked teams.

“Definitely their strength would be they play aggressive doubles and they’re very good at No. 1 and No. 2,” Roditi said. “They have a very good one and two punch. Obviously, that’s where they won yesterday.”

That one-two punch consists of Brayden Schnur, who won his singles match 7-6 (5), 2-6, 6-2 and Schneider, who won 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-3.

Roditi said he plans to play the match outdoors in Waco, but there could be the possibility of moving matches to SMU if weather interferes with play. Already, two matches have been moved to SMU in the tournament.

NCAA men’s tennis quarterfinal

No. 5 TCU vs. No. 13 North Carolina

10 a.m. Saturday, Baylor’s Hurd Tennis Center, Waco