Senior Katie Poluta could taste victory as she was moments away from clinching a singles win that would serve as the cherry on top of a formidable Texas performance.
After a heartbreaking loss to the No. 4 Stanford Cardinal, the Longhorns bounced back against Rice thanks to a flawless singles performance.
“Rice is a disciplined and skilled team, so it was important to get this match under our belt since it will give us confidence and prepare us for a tough upcoming schedule,” Texas head coach Howard Joffe said.
Initially, the Owls gained momentum by taking advantage of strong doubles play. Although sophomores Bojana Markovic and Fernanda Labraña toppled Victoria Smirnova and Anna Bowtell, 6-1, junior twin sisters Bianca and Anna Turati suffered their first dual match loss, 6-2, against Anastasia Smirnova and Priya Niezgoda.
Junior Petra Granic and freshman Tijana Spasojevic clawed back from a 4-2 deficit, winning in three sets. However, Rice’s duo of Michaela Haet and Linda Huang won three straight sets, securing the doubles point.
Despite the early setback, Joffe saw no reason to panic.
“Since the doubles play is only one set, the margin of error is small,” Joffe said. “So today we let the angst get the best of us. I know that we had the depth to come back in our singles play.”
Labraña sparked the surge with a 6-2, 6-2 victory against Bowtell while Bianca grabbed the lead against Michaela Haet, 6-0, 6-3.
The scoring onslaught continued as Anna earned a third consecutive victory in straight sets against Victoria Smirnova 6-2, 6-3.
Later, Spasojevic handed Linda Huang a 6-3 loss on a match point in her third set, obtaining the fourth point overall, making a potential Rice comeback insurmountable. Then, Markovic allotted a victory in a tight match against Priya Niezgoda, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2, as well.
It was Poulta who staged an impressive rally to seal the victory. After falling to 5-0 in the first set, Poulta came roaring back, winning 7-5. Her focus set the tone for the rest of the match as Poulta stayed calm under pressure sealing the deal, 7-5, in the third set.
“Her ability to be poised and controlled in tight matches is a testament to her four years at Texas, and is something we will continue to rely on,” Joffe said.