The Texas women’s tennis team claimed its second consecutive national title and fourth in program history Sunday with a 4-1 win over Oklahoma.
Despite the Longhorns’ back-to-back NCAA championships, the victory also marks a comeback of sorts after the team began 2022 with three of its star players injured. In the fall, Peyton Stearns and Allura Zamarripa each had stress fractures, while Sabina Zeynalova had a broken ankle.
Yet on Sunday, all three won their singles matches to help capture the title over the Sooners. It was a turnaround from the regular-season meeting between the teams on Feb. 12, when Oklahoma beat Texas 4-1.
The Longhorns finished the season 26-4.
great day to be a Longhorn🤘 pic.twitter.com/IBK0P9LoO7— Texas Women's Tennis (@TexasWTN) May 23, 2022
great day to be a Longhorn🤘 pic.twitter.com/IBK0P9LoO7
“It’s really, honestly, incomprehensible for me right now,” Texas coach Howard Joffe told the Austin American-Statesman. “I think in a funny way how badly it started in January and February, it took the bull’s-eye off Texas, because we were no longer the top dog. And it did allow everybody to get to work.”
On top of a broken ankle, Zeynalova was playing with the knowledge that only half of her family was able to leave Ukraine following the Russian invasion. She responded by putting together a 23-1 season, including a win over Oklahoma’s Ivana Corley in the NCAA final.
“From that point of the season, I just played for my country,” Zeynalova said. “I was fighting for my country. I didn’t really care for myself at that point because I was thinking about Ukraine and my family all the time. So, it just became a part of my life and part of my motivation.
“That’s exactly the reason why I fight on the court, because I know the people of Ukraine do the same thing. That’s really the only thing I can do for them. It’s been very rough and very emotional, but I have really great support from my coaches and my teammates.”
Stearns, meanwhile, took down Oklahoma’s best player Layne Sleeth in a decisive, 6-0, 6-2 victory.
Emma Staker was the lone Sooner to find victory Sunday, taking down Texas’ Vivian Ovrootsky 6-1, 6-1. For Oklahoma, Sunday marked the first finals appearance for a program that was unranked in 2016.