Texas falls to No. 20 Pepperdine at home

Clark Dalton

Things took an unexpected turn as sophomore Fernanda Labraña attempted a furious comeback.

Entering Saturday’s contest, Texas was looking forward to a test against a hungry Pepperdine team. But the No. 8 Longhorns were outmatched, 5-2, in front of their home crowd.

No. 20 Pepperdine started to gain attention with an earlier sweep against No. 6 UCLA. Another victory against a top-10 team would further cement its success, and the Waves clearly looked ready.

To begin the match, Texas lost the doubles point. The Waves capitalized on the strong play of Ashley Lahey and Daria Kuczer, who defeated sophomores Bojana Markovic and Fernanda Labraña, 6-1. Adrijana Lekaj and Dzina Milovanovic complemented the start with a 6-2 surge against juniors Anna and Bianca Turati.

“I think we came out a little flat,” Texas head coach Howard Joffe said. “The lack of energy early hurt us. It surprised me that it continued throughout today.”

Although Texas lost the doubles point in previous matches, the Longhorns couldn’t find the same flow that aided them in similar situations.

Markovic fell to Milovanovic again at the fourth singles spot in straight sets (6-2, 6-1). Bianca Turati squared off against one her biggest challenges, Lahey, who defeated her in straight sets as well, 6-4, 6-1, at the first line. Pepperdine built a daunting 3-0 lead.

Texas recovered well, though, as Anna Turati put the Longhorns on the board with a dominant performance against Adriana Lekaj (6-2, 6-2). Junior Petra Granic added to the momentum by winning deuce games in the middle of both her sets, knocking off Jessica Failla.

The Longhorns set themselves up with a huge opportunity when they were one point away from a tie. However, as the pressure began to mount, Pepperdine started to sharpen its focus.

At the fifth spot, Daria Kuczer inched closer to the clinching point with a 6-4 victory against Labraña in the first set. Kuzcer continued to charge as she built a 5-2 lead in the second set. Labraña gave a valiant effort as she tried to regain control, saving three match points and winning the following two deuce games.

Despite her perseverance, Labraña still fell 6-4, granting the waves with a victory.

Senior Katie Poluta lost a tiebreaker to tally a final score of 5-2 in favor of the Waves.

“With midterms and only one match in the past week, we were simply overwhelmed in terms of experience,” Joffe said. “The takeaway is that we have not played enough yet, and there is still plenty of room to go.”

Thankfully for Joffe’s team, however, the Longhorns have a quick turnaround with a match versus Illinois on Tuesday.