Ladies and gentlemen it doesn’t get much better than what we saw on Saturday night in Orlando. The second-seeded Texas Longhorns won their third NCAA National Title, and first since 1995, in an epic four-hour battle over No. 5 Pepperdine.
The doubles point had been Pepperdine’s bread and butter all week but despite having multiple match points they’d let it slip through their fingers and in the end that one point proved costly.
Pepperdine’s Shiori Fakuda and Taisiya Pachkaleva won all the big points in a 6-1 win at No. 2 doubles. Fakuda and Pachkaleva won all four games that went to a deciding point while also fighting off six break points on their own serve.
The match at No. 1 doubles was as close as it gets with 9 of the 12 games coming down to a deciding point. Texas’s Kylie Collins and Lulu Sun jumped out to a 3-1 lead but Pepperdine’s Lisa Zaar and Ashley Lahey would win 4 of the next 5 games to take a 5-4 lead. Sun jumped out to a 40/15 lead but Zaar and Lahey won the next two points to bring up the deciding point which in this case was also a match point. Texas managed to win the point to hold for 5-5. In the following game, Zaar held on the deciding point for 6-5 and then Collins fought off two match points to send it to a tiebreak. Collins and Sun won the first five points of the tiebreak and ended up taking it 7-3.
The deciding match at No. 3 doubles was into a tiebreak at the same time as court 1 and would finish less than two minutes later. Pepperdine’s Anastasia Iamachkine and Jessica Failla won the first two games of the match to go up 2-0* but Texas’s Charlotte Chavatipon and Peyton Stearns would take the next three to make it 3-2. In Chavatipon’s 2-2 service game she and Stearns fought off three break points to get the hold. After two quick holds, which would be a rarity in this one, Chavatipon and Stearns broke the Failla serve on the deciding point to go in front 5-3. Iamachkine and Failla broke Chavatipon from 30/40 to put it back on serve at 5-4 and then Iamachkine held from 40/30 for 5-5. Stearns held on the deciding point for 6-5 and then Failla held from 40/15 to send it to a tiebreak. Iamachkine and Failla led the tiebreak 5-3 but Chavatipon and Stearns would take the next four points to close out the match, and clinch the doubles point, with a 7-5 win in the tiebreak.
Pepperdine wouldn’t stay down for long because the Waves jumped out to break leads on all six courts. Texas managed to turn two of the opening sets around but that meant Pepperdine had four first sets in the bank.
Texas freshman Charlotte Chavatipon was the first one off the court after she defeated Shiori Fakuda in straight sets at No. 4. Fakuda took a 2-0 lead in the first set but Chavatipon took the next four to go in front 4-2. Fakuda held at love for 3-4 but Chavatipon held and then broke at love to take the opening set 6-3. In the second set Chavatipon broke Fakuda at love to go ahead 4-2 and then she’d add one more break to close it out 6-2, 6-3.
Pepperdine would tie it at 2-2 after straight set wins from Jessica Failla and Lisa Zaar at No. 2 and No. 5.
Failla never trailed in the opening set and took it 6-2. In the second set, Failla went up 3-1 but Anna Turati held and broke on a deciding point to even it at 3-3. Failla broke back from 30/40 for 4-3, held easily, and then broke at love to close it out 6-2, 6-3.
Lisa Zaar wasn’t able to close out her match as easily as Failla but she still got the job done in the end. The first set was comprised of three streaks. Zaar won the first two games, Kylie Collins won the next 3 to go up a break, and then Zaar won the final four to take the set 6-3. Zaar broke Collins to start the second set and would hold the break lead until Collins broke for 4-4. Zaar immediately broke back for 5-4 but she’d be unable to serve the match out and a few games later it’d go to a tiebreak. The score was even at 3-3 at the changeover but Zaar would win the next four points to close it out 6-3, 7-6(3).
The next court to finish would be at No. 1 singles as Texas freshman Peyton Stearns came back from a set down to defeat Ashley Lahey 2-6, 6-0, 6-2. In the opening set, Lahey won all four games that went to a deciding point but in the next two sets Stearns would take 6 of 7 deciding points and that helped turn the match around.
Texas just needed to find one more point to wrap up the title but it wouldn’t come from court No. 6 after Nikki Redelijk snapped Malaika Rapolu’s 17-match winning streak and tied the dual-match at 3-3 with a 6-4, 7-5 win.
Redelijk jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first set but she’d get broke at love while serving for the set at 5-3. However in the next game she’d break Rapolu on the deciding point to take the set 6-4. In the second set, Redelijk went down a break on two occasions but she’d immediately break back in the next game. Redelijk came back from 15/40 down to hold for 5-4 and then two games later she’d come back from 15/40 down again to hold for 6-5. Redelijk went up 0/40 on Rapolu’s 5-6 service game and would break from 30/40 to close it out.
All eyes turned to court No. 3 for the beginning of the third set between Texas freshman Lulu Sun and Pepperdine freshman Taisiya Pachkaleva. Sun looked like she’d close this one out in straight sets after leading 6-4, 4-2 but Pachkaleva reeled off three straight to go in front 5-4. The second set would go to a tiebreak with Pachkaleva taking it 7-3.
Pachkaleva broke Sun to go ahead 1-0 in the all-or-nothing final set but Sun broke back and held for 2-1. Pachkaleva fought off three break points to hold for 2-2 and then two games later she’d fight off two more to hold for 3-3. Sun held on the deciding point for 4-3 and then she broke from 30/40 to go up 5-3. Sun was serving for the championship and would go up 15/0 but then she made a string of errors and lost the next four points to get broke. Pachkaleva made it eight points in a row and held at love for 5-5 but Sun regrouped and held from 40/30 for 6-5. Pachkaleva was two points away from forcing a tiebreak at 30/15 but Sun took the final three points to clinch the NCAA National Championship for Texas.
#2 Texas 4, #5 Pepperdine 3
5/22/2021 at Orlando, Fla. (USTA National Campus)
1. #37 Peyton Stearns (UT) def. #77 Lahey, Ashley (PEPPW) 2-6, 6-0, 6-2
2. #21 Failla, Jessica (PEPPW) def. #35 Anna Turati (UT) 6-2, 6-3
3. #62 Lulu Sun (UT) def. #89 Pachkaleva, Taisiya (PEPPW) 6-4, 6-7(3), 7-5
4. #76 Charlotte Chavatipon (UT) def. #118 Fakuda, Shiori (PEPPW) 6-3, 6-2
5. Zaar, Lisa (PEPPW) def. #72 Kylie Collins (UT) 6-3, 7-6(3)
6. Redelijk, Nikki (PEPPW) def. Malaika Rapolu (UT) 6-4, 7-5
1. #19 Kylie Collins/Lulu Sun (UT) def. Zaar, Lisa/Lahey, Ashley (PEPPW) 7-6(3)
2. Fakuda, Shiori/Pachkaleva, Taisiya (PEPPW) def. Fernanda Labrana/Anna Turati (UT) 6-1
3. #47 Charlotte Chavatipon/Peyton Stearns (UT) def. Iamachkine,Anastasia/Failla, Jessica (PEPPW) 7-6(5)
Pepperdine 25-4; National ranking #5
Texas 31-1; National ranking #2
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1,3); Singles (4,2,5,1,6,3)
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