Texas looks to defend title in Big 12 Women’s Tennis Championship

Ana Sofia Meyer, Sports Reporter

At this point in the season, Texas women’s tennis sits in position to repeat last season’s success. With an overall record of 17–4 and 8–1 in conference competition, the Longhorns are poised to take on the Big 12 Championship beginning April 22 in Fort Worth. 

Last season, Texas won the Big 12 Championship with a sweep of No. 8 Baylor. Before the Longhorns can defend their title, plenty of obstacles stand in their way. The first is Iowa State, ranked No. 34 in the most recent ITA team rankings, which No. 4 Texas will play in the morning before the tournament starts. 

Iowa State defeated No. 10 seed West Virginia on Thursday, giving the team its second ever win in the tournament. The win improved the Cyclones’ overall record to 16–5 this season, the most wins for the program since the 1986–87 season. 

However, Texas has not lost a team dual to Iowa State in its previous 14 meetings. When the teams met earlier this season, the Longhorns defeated the Cyclones 6-1, winning five out of six singles matches and sweeping doubles. 

Going into the tournament, Texas has five players in the ITA national Top 125 singles rankings: No. 2 Peyton Stearns, No. 58, Kylie Collins, No. 79 Sabina Zeynalova, No. 98 Malaika Rapolu and No. 118 Charlotte Chavatipon. 

Stearns will be one to watch this weekend. With a 20–1 record in singles this spring, the sophomore was named the Big 12 Conference Women’s Tennis Player of the Week in consecutive weeks in March. 

Stearns will most likely participate in a Court 1 rematch against Iowa State’s Thasaporn Naklo, currently ranked No. 61 in the ITA national singles rankings. In their meeting earlier this season, Stearns defeated Naklo 6–2, 6–4.

Similar to Stearns, Collins is expected to face a challenge from No. 95 freshman Ange Oby Kajuru on Court 2. In their last meeting, the sophomore dropped the first set to Kajuru 3–6, but rallied for a comeback, taking the second set 6–4 and the tiebreak 10–7. 

With a win, Texas would go on to face No. 11 Oklahoma State or No. 29 Texas Tech on Saturday, April 23. The Longhorns have defeated both teams this season, beating each team 4–1. A loss, however, could jeopardize the team’s chances at the NCAA Championship, which is set to start on May 6. 

For the Longhorns, reaching the Big 12 title match could mean a rematch against No. 2 Oklahoma, the only team that has beaten Texas multiple times in a season in over 15 seasons.