Twenty-six years ago, Tim Siegel, Texas Tech Men's Tennis Head Coach, found himself in the exact spot that his two seniors were in on Sunday – in the semifinals of the NCAA Doubles Tournament.
Siegel and his partner Richard Schmidt, representing the University of Arkansas, fell short of playing for a National Championship falling in their semifinal match in 1986.
But in 2012 with a victory against No. 17 Ole Miss on Sunday, Raony Carvalho and Gonzalo Escobar punched their ticket to the National Championship match surpassing what their head coach did in his senior campaign 26 years ago.
"The biggest thing is, is I was fortunate enough to make the semifinals of this same tournament 26 years ago and these guys all they care about is their surpassing what I did," Siegel said. "So they're all excited about that."
Watching Carvalho and Escobar making this run in the NCAA Tournament, people might not realize that this duo has been playing together for only half the season.
Before getting paired up, Escobar was with Vitor Manzini and Carvalho was teamed up with Rafael Garcia, but that ended in the March 10 match vs. then-No. 41 Louisville, when the two joined forces.
That slight shift to the lineup has paid off.
"Having only played half the season, when we changed the doubles lineup, it's just incredible," Texas Tech head coach Tim Siegel said. "They have just been a great team, they love playing with each other, their relaxed, their confident and they're having fun. That's really been the key.
"They've just had such great chemistry, I'm just so proud of what they've accomplished so far."
Since making the change, Escobar and Carvalho have gone 14-1 overall, 9-1 against ranked opponents and 3-1 against duos in the Top 10.
The success should not come as a surprise considering the fact that Escobar and Carvalho are the winningest singles and doubles players in Tech history.
Escobar finished his career with 99 singles victories and has 82 doubles wins to be on the top of the all-time list in that respective category with his partner on his heels with 72 of his own wins in doubles play.
Both players have been so good separately in their careers and now coming together in their senior year it seems to be working and Siegel said one reason they are so good is because they have fun together and also they have different styles that work well together.
"What makes them so special is they compliment each other so well," he said. "(Raony) is a very powerful ground stroke player with a good serve, and Gonzalo (Escobar) is more of a finesse player with good vollies, good angles, good touch. I think that's what makes them so good, not only is the chemistry good on the court but also the fact that they compliment each other so well with their games and their styles."
The complimenting of their games has paid off in this run as in every single match in this tournament, the No. 18 duo has been faced with a team ranked higher, and better record but that has not mattered.
Escobar and Carvalho have defeated No. 12 Tennessee, No. 6 California, No. 2 USC and on Sunday No. 17 Ole Miss to place themselves into the National Championship match where they will be faced with the biggest challenge of the tournament – No. 1 Ohio State.
"First we beat Ole Miss because we were more relaxed," Siegel said. "I think tomorrow we'll be relaxed. We're playing the No. 1 team in the country from Ohio State, we've already beaten I think number's 2, 6, 12 and 17, so they're not going to be intimidated, their going to be relaxed, their going to have some fun. But obviously Ohio State is No.1 in the country for a reason, they're very good, but we're going to go out there, put some pressure on them and see what we can do."
If Escobar and Carvalho are able to bring home the National Championship it will mark the first individual National Championship since Julian Wruck, Texas Tech discus thrower brought home a National Championship in the discus throw in 2011.
It will mark the second time in history that a Tech team has defeated a squad from Ohio State, in 1993 the Lady Raiders defeated Ohio State for the NCAA Women's National Championship – the only Texas Tech team National Title.
With everything that is on the line heading into Monday, Siegel said the duo has the right state of mind heading into the match considering they have only gotten better as the tournament and week has gone on.
Now all that's left for them in their time donning the red and black is one doubles match, one last time on the court together with one National Championship on the line.
"I'm so happy for them," Siegel said. "So we're going to give it everything we have to bring home a National Championship to Tech."