Women’s tennis season preview: Longhorns look to continue success following back-to-back national championships


Mariah Barsotti/The Daily Texan

Maneuvering around the court, freshman Sabina Zeynalova faces off against NC State’s senior Nell Miller. Zeynalova won her singles match in two sets with scores of 6-0 and 6-1.

Lindsey Plotkin, Sports reporter

Following a national championship-winning season for Texas women’s tennis, the Longhorns look to continue their success this fall and improve their skills before Big 12 and NCAA play in the spring.

Over the summer, head coach Howard Joffe signed four new players to the team in junior transfer Taisiya Pachkaleva from Pepperdine, graduate transfer Marlee Zein from Florida and two freshmen, Nicole Khirin from Israel and Nicole Rivkin from Germany. 

Pachkaleva was a two-time All-West Coast Conference selection in singles, with a 45–10 singles record and 34–16 doubles record over two years at Pepperdine. 

In her career at Florida, Zein finished her four years with a singles record of 57–50 and a 66–50 doubles record. Zein was selected twice for the All-Southeastern Conference Second-Team and was an Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American in doubles in 2021.   

Khirin won the Israeli National Singles Championship in 2021 and is a member of Israel’s Billie Jean King Cup team. Khirin has one International Tennis Federation singles title and three ITF doubles titles to her name, with the most recent being the W25 Akko tournament in Israel in May 2022.

Rivkin’s highest ITF junior ranking was No. 53 in May 2021, and she has won four ITF junior singles titles and four junior doubles titles. In March, Rivkin advanced to the singles final of the ITF W15+H in Amiens, France, with her most notable win coming over current World Tennis Association No. 453 Sina Herrmann, whom she defeated 0-6, 6-1, 6-0. 

Several returning Longhorns found success in their summer tournaments. Sophomore Vivian Ovrootsky captured gold in doubles and silver in singles for the United States at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, and both sophomore Sabina Zeynalova and junior Malaika Rapolu competed in the ITF W15 tournament in Fountain Valley, California. Zeynalova advanced to the quarterfinals and Rapolu advanced to the semifinals.  

Heading into their first tournaments of the fall season, five players made appearances in the preseason ITA individual rankings with a pair featured in the doubles rankings and two making the newcomers rankings. 


  • No. 33 Pachkaleva
  • No. 47 Zeynalova
  • No. 59 Zein
  • No. 74 Rapolu
  • No. 99 Charlotte Chavatipon


  • No. 30 Zein/Chavatipon


  • No. 4 Khirin
  • No. 8 Rivkin

From Sept. 22-26, seven Longhorn athletes competed in the ITA Texas Regionals at TCU. 

Zein, Rapolu, Ovrootsky, sophomore Grace Thomas, junior Simran Kortikere, freshman Susanna Brass and senior Gabby Cusano competed in the singles tournament along with the doubles pairs of Zein and Ovrootsky, Cusano and Thomas, and Brass and Kortikere.

Rapolu, the third seed in the singles draw, won the tournament after defeating Zein 6-4, 6-3 in the finals, her sixth consecutive win of the tournament. 

As the fall tournament season continues to get underway, more Longhorns will take the court at the USTA Pro-Circuit in Austin starting Sept. 27 and running through Oct. 2. The fall season is a time for players to practice and build momentum playing in tournaments before team match play officially begins in January.