After being ranked No. 1 in the Big 12 Coaches’ Poll and No. 7 nationally in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, the women’s tennis team has high expectations for its spring season, which kicks off Friday at the Pink Flamingo Invitational at Baha Mar Resort in Nassau, Bahamas.
The Longhorns will play No. 4 UCLA, No. 21 Florida and No. 23 Miami (Florida) in the invitational.
After falling in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament to end the 2018–19 school year, Texas finished with a No. 9 ITA ranking. A strong overall effort this past fall season led to its current No. 7 ranking.
“In the fall, we’ve had players in different places, whether it’s (senior) Bianca (Turati) playing pro tournaments or (junior) Fernanda (Labraña) going back to her home country to play,” head coach Howard Joffe said. “So going into the season, it’ll be important to build that cohesion when we have everybody on the team together for really one of the first times this year.”
There might not be a better place for the team to build that cohesion than the Bahamas, where 13 nationally ranked players and three of the top six players in the nation will all face off. Of those 13, Texas has three: No. 4 senior Anna Turati, No. 43 freshman Lexi Ryngler and No. 98 Labraña.
Anna jumped from a No. 17 fall preseason ranking to her current No. 4 ranking after a run in the ITA National Fall Championships fell just short in the final.
“Even when Anna wasn’t necessarily playing her best tennis by her own admission, she still made the finals and had a really great effort beating top-ranked players left and right,” Joffe said.
Ryngler also had an impressive run at the Fall Championships and got a glimpse of what’s to come at the Bahamas Invitational when she beat No. 23 McCartney Kessler of Florida in the Round of 64, one of two top-25 wins she notched to finish her fall.
“Lexi actually jumped ahead a year to play tennis here, so for her to perform at the level she did and beat two top nationally ranked players is a really good sign for her and the program,” Joffe said.
Miami is familiar with the Longhorns, as the team came to Austin in the fall to play in the Texas Invitational. Labraña beat Miami’s Daevenia Achong to earn the singles title and won two matches alongside redshirt sophomore Marta Perez Mur out of their three doubles matches.
Recovering from a knee injury that forced her to redshirt her second year, Perez Mur said she had played her best tennis post-injury in the Texas Invitational against Miami and others.
For the Longhorns, the fall season inspired confidence to win their third straight Big 12 Championship, as evidenced by the No. 1 ranking in the preseason Coaches’ Poll.
This upcoming invitational in the Bahamas is a big test for this team and could reveal a lot about how the Longhorns will fare in their grueling dual match season, which kicks off Jan. 24 at home against Iowa.