Texas women’s tennis takes Big 12 Championship in 4-0 sweep over Baylor

Sam Starr

Two wins on the doubles courts to secure the point and three singles wins allowed the Texas women’s tennis team to claim the Big 12 Championship victory and move to 25–1 on the season.

Baylor pushed the Longhorns’ doubles teams to their limits on Sunday, but Texas had already overcome worse this weekend. Coming off a comeback win against the Sooners on Saturday, Texas was prepared for a close match with one of the Big 12’s top tennis teams.

The Longhorns dominated on the doubles court all season long, and their failure to secure the doubles point against the Sooners flipped the switch for this Texas team. Throughout the season, the Longhorns have astronomically improved following a match loss, and this Big 12 Championship game encapsulated Texas’ determination to learn from their previous mistakes.

After their doubles loss to the Sooners on Saturday, veteran senior duo Anna Turati and Fernanda Labraña gave it all they had on doubles court No. 2. Trailing 1-4 in the first set against Baylor’s junior-senior duo of Kristina Sorokolet and Jessica Hinojosa, a second consecutive doubles loss for the Texas pair seemed imminent.

But adversity has served as a uniting force for the Longhorns all season, so Turati and Labraña welcomed the challenge. The pair notched five straight points in the first set to overcome the deficit and topped it off with a quick reaction spike at the net from Labraña. The duo immediately exploded into a well-deserved celebration after their amazing comeback secured the doubles point for the Longhorns.

Freshman Peyton Stearns lost in an unprecedented first set on singles court No. 1. Following a low start, the No. 28-ranked singles player only managed to notch one point on the board. But one unfortunate set only strengthened Stearns’ drive.

After a brief break, Stearns took an immediate lead in the second set and held absolute control of the court. Refusing to let off the gas, the freshman made a statement with a perfect 6-0 second set.

Although Stearns had the victory in sight, fellow freshman Malaika Rapolu beat her to the punch on singles court No. 6.

Rapolu, unlike most of the Longhorns on Sunday, didn’t have to come from behind to win her match. The talented freshman only built upon her momentum from the semifinals on Saturday when she came in clutch for the Longhorns, securing a 7-5, 6-2 victory.

A perfect example of the “clutch gene” in action, Rapolu notched the winning point for the Longhorns for the second time this weekend. The freshman returned her opponent’s final serve with a lightning-quick backhand that she couldn’t handle and sent the ball straight into the net, propelling the Longhorns into a 4-0 sweep over the No. 8 Baylor Bears. Rapolu immediately erupted into celebration as her teammates swarmed around to join her as the new Big 12 Conference champions.

Texas will now rest up for a week or so before hitting the road for the NCAA Team Championships starting on May 7.