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James Hill | | May 19, 2014

Hill: Trinity (Texas) shows it is back on track

  Trinity (Texas) won the national title the last time it was among the final eight teams in 2000.

CLAREMONT, Calif. -- It has been 14 years since the Trinity (Texas) Tigers advanced to the NCAA Division III semifinals.

Trinity reclaimed a spot in the semis with a 5-1 upset Monday against Washington (Mo.) in the quarterfinals at the Biszantz Family Tennis Center. The last time the Tigers earned a position in the semifinals was in 2000, when Trinity captured the NCAA championship.

The Tigers (25-6) will face the Amherst Lord Jeffs (34-3), who were 5-1 winners against the Emory Eagles (19-7). Tuesday's semifinals begin at 2 p.m. ET. The championship and third-place matches are slated for Wednesday.

Russell McMindes, Trinity's fifth-year head coach, believes his Tigers have made a tremendous amount of progress the past few seasons. A lot of it, according to McMindes, was god old "elbow grease."

"It was a lot of hard work, and the guys were really disciplined," said McMindes. who played on Trinity's 2000 national championship squad. "We preach that you have to trust and believe in yourself. We talked about that in our huddle. They weathered so many ups and downs the last couple of weeks. They proved they were ready to handle it. It's important we enjoy this win, but we will make sure we come out [Tuesday] and give ourselves another chance to win."

The Tigers took a 2-1 lead after doubles. After a loss on the No. 1 line, Trinity's Greg Haugen and Jordan Mayer defeated Washington's John Carswell and Josh Cogan 8-6 in the No. 2 match. Charlie Curtis and Clayton Niess gave Trinity the edge with a tough 9-7 win at No. 3 doubles against Kevin Chu and Jeffrey Hirsh.

Haugen won No. 2 singles for the Tigers, Aaron Skinner took the No. 4 match, and Curtis supplied the clincher at the No. 6 matchup. Curtis beat Chu by a score of 6-1, 6-4.

"It really comes down to the doubles," said Curtis, a junior, who served out for the win in his doubles match. "We were tied at 7-7 in the match. When you go up 2-1 in doubles, it's really big. We have Amherst [Tuesday], and hopefully we can just play well again. That's all you can hope for."

The man who guided Trinity to that national title in 2000, Butch Newman, is the school's director of tennis. He was present on Monday to watch his favorite team advance in the grinding tournament.

"The win says that Trinity's program is still strong," said Newman, who also led the Trinity women to the championship in 2000. "It is definitely headed in the right direction. Russ [McMindes] has his own enthusiasm and synergy her creates. It's a tribute to Russ and the guys, because they are back living up to the standards Trinity has so long enjoyed."

Trinity is making its 21st appearance in the Division III tournament, and qualified for the quarterfinals for the 17th time. The Tigers also made the semifinals in 1999.