PUEBLO - They took decidedly different routes, yet find themselves at the same destination after the first two days at the boys' 4A state tennis tournament at Pueblo City Park.
On one end, Luke Lorenz made slow, steady strides in four appearances in the 4A state boys' tennis tournament. Then there's Naish Gaubatz, who took one giant leap in his first season as a singles player.
Now, both are just one match from hoisting a state-championship trophy.
Lorenz, a senior at Discovery Canyon, held off a late first-set rally from Mullen's Connor Arend in No. 1 singles and then cruised to a 7-5, 6-0 victory. Just minutes later, Air Academy's Gaubatz, also a senior, put the finishing touches on a dominating, 6-1, 6-2 triumph over Drew Pasma of Niwot in No. 3 singles.
Lorenz gets a rematch with Kent Denver junior David Mitchell, to whom he lost two matches this season.
"It's nice to see that progression from my freshman to senior years," said Lorenz, who previously lost in the first, quarterfinal and semifinal rounds before finally breaking through Friday. "I'm glad I exceeded my performance from last year. Hopefully, I can take it all the way. It's pretty surreal."
Meanwhile, Gaubatz placed third at No. 3 doubles the past two seasons. He moved into the singles division this season after graduation took eight members from last year's squad.
He barely looked the part of a newcomer, transitioning from his doubles experience and putting it to good use.
"You can incorporate doubles into your singles strategy or not," Gaubatz said. "I decided to. I'm used to playing a 1970s serve-and-volley style, and kids just don't see that style much. I like to come to the net and make players pass me, and it's tough for anyone to adjust."
Gaubatz, after losing the first game, held his serve, then broke Pasma to take the lead for good in rolling off six straight games. After that, he never allowed Pasma to regroup.
Lorenz enjoyed a fast start, too, leading 4-1 in the first set before his left-handed counterpart reeled off four straight games to take the lead. Undaunted, the mild-mannered Lorenz broke Arend's serve, then broke him again two games later to win the set.
Lorenz rolled after breaking Arend to go up 2-0 in the second set.
"It's always been close when we've played," said Lorenz, who beat Arend 7-6, 7-6 in last year's state tournament. "I definitely had flashbacks when he made his comebacks. It would have been a completely different match had he won the first set. I guess I played the wind better today."
And thoughts on a second rematch? Lorenz tried not to dwell on the past.
"Maybe the third time will be the charm, I guess," Lorenz said. "I have a mental block against him, losing that many times, and it's tough to push through that. I just need to play well and capitalize on those opportunities and win the big points. That'll be the difference."