ORLANDO, Fla. — Freshman Lulu Sun recorded a dramatic three-set victory to lead The University of Texas women’s tennis team to a 4-3 win against No. 5 Pepperdine (25-4) in the NCAA Championship Match that lasted four hours and one minute on Saturday evening at the USTA National Campus. With the match tied at 3-3, Sun posted a 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 7-5 victory on court 3 against Taisiya Pachkaleva to seal the dual-match win and the national championship for the Longhorns (31-1).
UT earned its third NCAA team title in program history. The Longhorns previously won NCAA Championships in 1993 and 1995.
The University of Texas captured the 57th national team championship (53 NCAA titles) in school history. It marked the second national title during the 2020-21 academic calendar year, as Men’s Swimming and Diving won the crown in March.
UT took a 1-0 lead after winning the doubles point for the 29th time in its 32nd dual match of the season in dramatic fashion. The senior tandem of Anna Turati and Fernanda Labraña dropped a 6-1 decision on court 2 to Shiori Fukuda and Taisiya Pachkaleva. After surrendering the opening game, Fukuda and Pachkaleva held serve at deuce and then rattled off five consecutive games to close out the victory.
The No. 19-ranked duo of freshmen Kylie Collins and Lulu Sun evened the count in doubles with a 7-6 (7-3) win on court 1 against the tandem of Lisa Zaar and Ashley Lahey. Collins and Sun jumped out to a 4-2 lead, but Zaar and Lahey rallied to win three straight games to grab a 5-4 advantage. The Longhorns’ pair saved one match point when they held serve on a deciding point. After Zaar and Lahey held to go up 6-5, Collins and Sun rallied from down 30-40 to save two additional match points and force a tiebreaker. In the breaker, Collins and Sun won the opening five points before Pepperdine claimed three of the next four points to pull to within 6-3. Collins and Sun held serve on the following point to finish the win and move to 22-4 in dual-match doubles play this year.
Seconds after Collins and Sun wrapped up on court 1, the No. 47-ranked pair of freshmen Peyton Stearns and Charlotte Chavatipon clinched the doubles point with a 7-6 (7-5) win on court 3 over the duo of Anastasia Iamachkine and Jessica Failla. After dropping the opening two games, Stearns and Chavatipon reeled off three straight games to take a 3-2 advantage. Both teams held serve before Stearns and Chavatipon broke the Pepperdine duo to go up 5-3. The Waves’ duo responded by winning back-to-back games to even the count at 5-5, and both teams held serve to force a tiebreaker. Tied at 3-3 in the breaker, Iamachkine and Failla won back-to-back points to build a 5-3 cushion. Stearns and Chavatipon answered by winning the next four points to close out the victory and improve to 19-3 overall in doubles this season, including a 17-2 mark in dual-match action.
No. 76 Chavatipon gave the Longhorns a 2-0 advantage with a 6-3, 6-2 victory on court 4 over No. 118 Fakuda. After dropping the opening two games of the first set, Chavatipon reeled off four straight games to take a 4-2 lead. Fakuda held serve in the following game, but Chavatipon held and broke Fakuda to earn the 6-3 first-set win. Chavatipon jumped out to a 3-1 cushion in the second set, but Fakuda earned a service break to trim the deficit to 3-2. Chavatipon responded by breaking Fakuda, holding serve and breaking Fakuda again to complete her 18th consecutive singles victory and improve to 28-1 overall in singles this season, including a 25-1 mark in dual-match play.
Pepperdine earned straight-set victories at No. 2 and No. 5 singles to even the overall dual-match score at 2-2. No. 21 Failla claimed a 6-2, 6-3 win on court 2 over No. 35 Turati. Failla raced out to a 4-1 lead in the opening set, before Turati broke Failla to close to within 4-2. Failla answered with a service break and held serve to finish her 6-2 first-set victory. Failla built a 3-1 cushion in the second, but Turati responded by winning back-to-back-games. Tied at 3-3, Failla won the next three games to close out her win.
Zarr followed with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) victory on court 5 against No. 72 Collins. Zarr won the first two games of the opening set, before Collins reeled off three straight games to take a 3-2 lead. Zarr answered with a service break in the following game and won the next three games to earn the 6-3 first-set win. Trailing 4-2 in the second set, Collins held serve and broke Zarr to even the set at 4-4. The two players split the next four games to force a second-set tiebreaker. Tied at 3-3 in the breaker, Zarr won four straight points to finish out her victory. Collins had her singles win streak snapped at 12 matches.
No. 37 Stearns provided the Longhorns a 3-2 lead in the dual-match score by rallying for a 2-6, 6-0, 6-2 victory on court 1 against No. 77 Lahey. Lahey jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the opening set and cruised to a 6-2 set victory. Stearns responded by blanking Lahey in the following set to force a decisive third set. Stearns rallied from down 30-40 to hold serve on a deciding point in the opening game and returned to break Lahey on a deciding point to build a 2-0 lead. Lahey broke Stearns on a deciding point in the following game, but Stearns answered with a service break on a deciding point to take a 3-1 advantage. Lahey again broke Stearns, and Stearns responded with another service break on a deciding point to go up 4-2. She held serve and broke Lahey one final time to seal the victory and move to 17-7 overall in singles this year, including a 13-4 mark in dual-match action.
Moments after Stearns’ match point, the Waves tied the overall dual-match score at 3-3 when Nikkie Redelijk completed a 6-4, 7-5 win on court 6 against freshman Malaika Rapolu. Redelijk jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the opening set, before Rapolu won back-to-back games to pull within 4-3. Redelijk earned a service break on a deciding point to gain a 5-3 advantage, but Rapolu answered by breaking Redelijk to make it 5-4. Redelijk closed out the 6-4 first-set victory by breaking Rapolu on a deciding point. Tied at 5-5 in a back-and-forth second set, Redelijk held serve on a deciding point and then broke Rapolu to close out the win and end Rapolu’s consecutive singles win streak at 17 matches.
That set the stage for Sun’s heroics on court 3. After No. 89 Pachkaleva began the match by winning the first two games, No. 62 Sun reeled off five straight games to build a 5-2 advantage. Pachkaleva won back-to-back games to make it 5-4, but Sun held serve to close out the 6-4 first-set win. Pachkaleva jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second set, and Sun again responded by winning four straight games to build a 4-2 cushion. Pachkaleva won three straight games to take a 5-4 advantage, and the players held serve in the following three games to force a second-set tiebreaker. Tied at 2-2 in the breaker, Pachkaleva won back-to-back points to take a 4-2 lead. After Sun won the following point, Pachkaleva reeled off three straight points to earn a 7-3 win in the breaker and force a third set.
Tied at 3-3 in the decisive third set, Sun held serve on a deciding point and broke Pachkaleva on a 30-40 point to build a 5-3 cushion. Pachkaleva responded by breaking Sun and holding serve to even the set at 5-5. Sun then held serve on a 40-30 point to take a 6-5 lead. Serving at 30-40, Pachkaleva hit a ball into the net from the baseline after a lengthy rally to seal the win for Sun and send the Longhorns into a celebration.
Texas ended the season on a 24-match win streak. UT’s 31 dual-match wins established a school single-season record, topping the previous mark of 29 set by the 1983-84 team (29-7 mark).
#2 Texas 4, #5 Pepperdine 3
Singles – Order of finish (4, 2, 5, 1, 6, 3)
- #37 Peyton Stearns (UT) def. #77 Ashley Lahey (Pepp), 2-6, 6-0, 6-2
- #21 Jessica Failla (Pepp) def. #35 Anna Turati (UT), 6-2, 6-3
- #62 Lulu Sun (UT) def. #89 Taisiya Pachkaleva (Pepp), 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 7-5
- #76 Charlotte Chavatipon (UT) def. #118 Shiori Fukuda (Pepp), 6-3, 6-2
- Lisa Zaar (Pepp) def. #72 Kylie Collins (UT), 6-3, 7-6 (7-3)
- Nikki Redelijk (Pepp) def. Malaika Rapolu (UT), 6-4, 7-5
Doubles – Order of finish (2, 1, 3)
- #19 Kylie Collins/Lulu Sun (UT) def. Lisa Zaar/Ashley Lahey (Pepp), 7-6 (7-3)
- Shiori Fukuda/Taisiya Pachkaleva (Pepp) def. Fernanda Labraña/Anna Turati (UT), 6-1
- #47 Peyton Stearns/Charlotte Chavatipon (UT) vs. Anastasia Iamachkine/Jessica Failla (Pepp), 7-6 (7-5)
NCAA Women’s All-Tournament Team
No. 1 Singles: Peyton Stearns, Texas (Most Outstanding Player)
No. 2 Singles: Jessica Failla, Pepperdine
No. 3 Singles: Lulu Sun, Texas
No. 4 Singles: Charlotte Chavatipon, Texas
No. 5 Singles: Lisa Zaar, Pepperdine
No. 6 Singles: Fiona Crawley, North Carolina
No. 1 Doubles: Kylie Collins/Lulu Sun, Texas
No. 2 Doubles: Taisiya Pachkaleva/Shiori Fukuda, Pepperdine
No. 3 Doubles: Charlotte Chavatipon/Peyton Stearns, Texas