Todd Petty had no misconceptions about the task he faced at Texas Tech.
Four seasons ago he took over a women’s tennis program that had been a black hole in Lubbock during the 32 years of its existence.
No Big 12 Conference titles, no postseason appearances and, well, not even a win against rival Texas.
Petty didn’t have to look far for inspiration, though.
Men’s tennis coach Tim Siegel has taken the Red Raiders to seven NCAA appearances in the last eight years, including a run to the round of 16 in 2005.
“He would never admit it,” Petty said of Siegel, “but he’s a legend when it comes to college tennis coaching. It’s great to win a title, but the consistency to be in the top 25 and make postseason tournaments, that’s what he’s done and that’s where we want to get.”
It was only fitting that both programs experienced unprecedented success together this year.
The Red Raiders finished the season ranked in the top 25 for the fifth year in a row, and seniors Gonzalo Escobar and Raony Carvalho were the NCAA doubles runners-up.
The Lady Raiders finished with a No. 22 ranking, won the Big 12 title and advanced to their first NCAA tournament — now a far cry from a black hole.
“This is the place we want to stay,” Petty said, “and another obstacle is being able to repeat. Not just be a one shot type program, but one that will be here a long time and establish ourselves as one of the top teams in the conference and the country.”
The run by Escobar and Carvalho during the NCAA doubles championships capped the careers of the two best tennis players in Texas Tech history. Both were all-Americans in singles and doubles during their four years in Lubbock.
Escobar beat Costin Paval, Oklahoma’s Big 12 player of the year, to advance to the round of 16 in the singles championships — a first for a Tech singles player.
He and Carvalho, unseeded and ranked 18th in the nation, upset doubles teams ranked No. 6 from California, No. 2 from Southern California and No. 17 from Ole Miss. In the finals, they lost to the top-ranked team from Ohio State.
Their postseason success followed Tech’s best conference season. The Red Raiders beat No. 15 Texas, No. 25 Texas A&M and No. 29 Baylor in the same year for the first time.
“It makes me feel good to know,” Siegel said, “that people around the country — recruits and peers — they know that Texas Tech tennis is a school to be reckoned with.”
The Lady Raiders won’t lose any players from 2012’s Big 12 championship squad. The Red Raiders lose their top three singles players: Escobar, Carvalho and Rafael Garcia.
Siegel, in his 20th year at Tech, knows he’s got his work cut out to rebuild.
He won’t have to look far for inspiration.
“Now our goal is to keep up with Todd,” he said.
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