no. 8 Women’s Tennis Preview: No. 34 Texas Tech and TCU

no. 8 TEXAS (9-3, 0-0 Big 12) vs. no. 34 Texas Tech (7-4, 0-0 Big 12)

When: Friday, March 11 (3 p.m. CT)

Where: Texas Tennis Center (Austin, Texas)

Live Videos: https://hookem.at/WTN-Watch

Live Stats: https://hookem.at/WTN-Stats

no. 8 TEXAS (9-3, 0-0 Big 12) vs. TCU (8-5, 0-0 Big 12)

When: Sunday, March 13 (12 pm CT)

Where: Texas Tennis Center (Austin, Texas)

Live Videos: https://hookem.at/WTN-Watch

Live Stats: https://hookem.at/WTN-Stats

Team Rankings: Texas is No. 8 in the latest ITA Collegiate Division I team national rankings (March 9). UT had held the top spot in the national rankings for five consecutive polls prior to moving to No. 3 on Feb. 16. UT earned the No. 1 spot in last year’s final poll and was ranked No. 1 in each of the first four weekly polls this season, beginning on Jan. 5. Texas has finished each of the last four years in the Top 10 of the final national polls (No. 6 in 2018, No. 9 in 2019, No. 4 in 2020 and No. 1 in 2021).

Individual Rankings: Four UT players are included in the current ITA national Top 125 singles rankings (March 9): Peyton Stearns (No. 7), Kylie Collins (No. 38), Malaika Rapolu (No. 95) and Sabina Zeynalova (No. 106). A pair of Longhorns are also tabbed in the current ITA national Top 80 doubles rankings (March 9): Charlotte Chavatipon and Kylie Collins (No. 50).

Strength of Schedule: Friday’s match against Texas Tech will mark the EIGHTH consecutive dual match against a nationally-ranked opponent for the Longhorns. UT began this current stretch with a 4-1 win against No. 10 USC, a 4-1 loss to No. 8 Oklahoma (now No. 3) and a 4-2 victory against No. 4 Cal at the ITA Indoor Nationals. The gauntlet continued with a 4-3 defeat to No. 4 NC State (now No. 2) in Austin. The Longhorns then traveled to the Bay Area and took a 5-2 loss at Stanford (currently No. 25) before recording a 4-3 victory at No. 6 Cal. UT registered a 4-0 sweep at No. 32 UCF (March 6). Texas Tech is No. 34 in the latest ITA team rankings.

Big 12 Streak: Texas owns a current 31-match win streak in Big 12 regular-season dual matches. The Longhorns have not dropped a conference regular-season contest since a 4-2 loss at Baylor on April 12, 2017.

Home Success at the TTC: The Longhorns are in their fifth year at the Texas Tennis Center. UT has registered a 44-4 mark in dual matches at the TTC, including a perfect 15-0 record in Big 12 regular-season matches. During its inaugural season in 2018, Texas went 13-0 at home (5-0 in Big 12 play). The Longhorns went 8-2 at the TTC in 2019 (3-0 Big 12) and 7-1 in the shortened 2020 season (2-0 Big 12). UT posted a perfect 13-0 mark at the TTC in 2021 (5-0 Big 12) and are 3-1 this season.

ITA Indoor Nationals in Review: Texas posted a 2-1 mark at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships on Feb. 11-14 in Madison, Wis. The Longhorns earned a 4-1 win over No. 10 USC (Feb. 11) in the Round of 16 before falling 4-1 to No. 8 Oklahoma (Feb. 12) in the quarterfinals. In a consolidation bracket, Texas bounced back to post a 4-2 victory against No. 4 California (Feb. 13).

Stearns on ITA Indoor Nationals All-Tournament TeamPeyton Stearns was named to the ITA Indoor National Team Championships All-Tournament Team at No. 1 singles. Stearns registered a perfect 3-0 mark at No. 1 singles during the event. She opened play with a dominant 6-2, 6-1 win over the nation’s top-ranked singles player, Erin Cayetano (USC) in the Round of 16. Stearns then earned a 6-3, 7-5 victory against No. 15 Layne Sleeth of Oklahoma in the quarterfinals. During the consolation bracket match against Cal, Stearns added a 6-1, 1-6, 6-0 win over Haley Giavara.

Stearns is sensational: Sophomore Peyton Stearns is off to a solid start in the 2022 dual match season. She has posted a 12-1 overall mark in singles this year, including a 9-1 record on court 1 in dual-match play. Stearns is No. 7 in the latest ITA national singles rankings (March 9). She earned a hard-fought 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory on court 1 against No. 12 Jaeda Daniel of NC State (Feb. 20). It marked Stearns’ second win against Daniel this spring, as she also posted a 6-4, 6-3 win at the Miami Spring Invite on Jan. 15. Her only singles defeat this season came in a 7-6 (9-7), 2-6, 6-2 loss to No. 18 Connie Ma of Stanford (Feb. 25). Stearns earned ITA singles All-America honors as a freshman in 2021, completing the year with an 18-8 overall singles record including a 13-4 mark in dual-match play at the No. 1 singles spot. She was tabbed No. 13 in the final ITA singles national rankings last season. Stearns was named the Most Outstanding Player at the 2021 NCAA Women’s Team Championship and the Big 12 Freshman of the Year.

The Case for Collins: Sophomore Kylie Collins has posted a 17-7 overall singles record this season, including a 5-4 mark on court 2 in dual-match play. Collins is No. 38 in the latest ITA national singles rankings (March 9). In the fall, she won the ITA Texas Regional singles title (Oct. 15-18) with three victories against ranked opponents during her run. As a freshman in 2021, Collins earned ITA doubles All-America honors with partner Lulu Sun† The duo became the first pair of ITA All-American in doubles at UT since Cristina Moros and Sandy Sureephong in 1998. Collins and Sun advanced to the finals of the 2021 NCAA Doubles Championship and were No. 5 in the final ITA doubles national rankings. The duo concluded the year at 26-5 overall (22-4 in dual-match play) and became the first UT pair to reach the NCAA Doubles final since Moros and Farley Taylor in 1996.

Charlotte’s Web: Sophomore Charlotte Chavatipon clinched the overall dual match win against No. 4 Cal at the ITA Indoor Nationals (Feb. 13) with a 6-3, 7-5 victory on court 4 over Julia Rosenqvist. She is having a very successful season on the doubles court, sporting a 15-4 overall doubles record including an 8-2 mark in dual-match action while playing with multiple partners. As a freshman last year, Chavatipon posted a 28-1 overall record in singles, including a 25-1 mark in dual-match play, and earned spots on the NCAA Championship All-Tournament team at both No. 4 singles and No. 3 doubles (with Stearns).

Mighty Malaika: Sophomore Malaika Rapolu has registered a 10-6 overall singles record, including a 3-2 mark in dual-match play this season. She earned an impressive 7-5, 6-2 win on court 6 against NC State’s Amelia Rajecki (Feb. 20). Rapolu is No. 95 in the latest ITA national singles rankings (March 9). She claimed a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 win against No. 5 Georgia Drummy of Duke during the Debbie Southern Furman Fall Classic in Greenville, SC (Sept. 17). As a freshman in 2021, Rapolu posted a 26-3 overall record in singles, including a 19-2 mark in dual-match play, and was named the Big 12 individual champion at No. 6 singles with a 6-0 mark on court 6 in league play.

Sabina’s Immediate Impact: Sabina Zeynalova enrolled in classes at Texas in January and has quickly made an impact for the Longhorns. Zeynalova is a perfect 9-0 in dual-match singles play, including a 6-0 mark on court 4. She is No. 106 in the latest ITA national singles rankings (March 9). Zeynalova clinched the home win against No. 25 Baylor (Feb. 2) with a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory on court 4 against No. 77 Alicia Herrero LINana. In that win, Zeynalova faced a 4-2 deficit in the second set but responded by claiming four straight games to win the set. Trailing 1-0 in the third set, she ran off six straight games to close out the victory. Zeynalova also clinched the dual match victory at No. 6 Cal (Feb. 27) with a 6-3, 6-3 win on court 3 over Valentina Ivanov.

Rooting for OvrootskyVivian Ovrootsky also enrolled in classes at Texas in January and has made a significant contribution early in her collegiate career. Ovrootsky is 6-3 in dual-match singles action, including a 2-0 mark on court 6. She recorded an important 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 win on court 6 against Hannah Viller Moeller in the UT’s 4 -3 dual match victory at No. 6 Cal (Feb. 27).

Big 12 Preseason Favorite: Texas is picked to win the Big 12 Conference title in a preseason vote of the league coaches. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams. Texas was selected as the preseason Big 12 favorite for a fourth-consecutive year and fifth time in the poll’s history. UT was the unanimous favorite among the other head coaches, receiving all nine first-place votes and 81 points in polling for the upcoming 2022 season. Baylor ranked second with 68 points and one first-place vote, while Oklahoma was tabbed third with 66 points. Rounding out the poll in descending order are Oklahoma State (60), Iowa State (48), Texas Tech (39), Kansas (35), TCU (29), Kansas State (24) and West Virginia (9).

Joffe in Year Seven: Head Coach Howard Joffe is in its seventh season leading the UT program. The 2021 ITA Division I Women’s National Coach of the Year, Joffe has registered a 124-35 (.780) mark in his seven years at Texas and a 255-96 (.726) record in 15 seasons as a collegiate head coach. He has helped four Longhorns earn a total of five ITA All-America honors in singles (Breaunna Addison in 2016, Bianca Turati in 2018, Anna Turatic and Bianca Turati in 2020 and Peyton Stearns in 2021) and one duo earn ITA All-America accolades in doubles (Kylie Collins and Lulu Sun in 2021), while 12 of his UT players have registered a combined 15 All-Big 12 singles and 14 All-Big 12 doubles selections.

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