What’s better than the Red River Rivalry to decide a national championship?
No. 2-ranked Oklahoma battled against No. 4 Texas for the national title on Sunday night at the University of Illinois in Champaign, but it was the Longhorns who defended their 2021 crown with a 4-1 victory.
The match came down to a couple of tiebreakers at No. 2 and No. 5 singles, and Texas won them both.
On Saturday night, OU had edged out No. 3 Duke to earn its first ever spot in the national championship finals.
Texas opened the night by taking the doubles point with an easy 30-minute victory in two of the three matches.
Texas’ duo of Charlotte Chavatipon and Kylie Collins easily beat OU’s Alexandra Pisareva and Layne Sleeth 6-1, and UT’s Sabina Zeynalova and Bella Zamarripa made quick work of the Sooners’ Dana Guzman and Emma Staker.
In singles, Emma Staker got the Sooners on the board with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Vivian Ovrootsky at No. 6 and knotted the match 1-1. It was Staker who closed out Duke in the semifinals with a three-set victory, prompting coach Audra Cohen to call her “the clinch artist.”
After losing the doubles point, Oklahoma needed to win four of the six singles matches. But the Sooners got off to a slow start by dropping the first set in four of the other five.
At No. 1, UT’s Peyton Stearns easily handled OU’s Layne Sleeth 6-0, 6-2 to give the Longhorns a 2-1 lead.
Texas grabbed a 3-1 advantage when Sabina Zeynalova beat Ivana Corley in dramatic fashion, 6-3, 7-6. Zeynalova won the tiebreaker 7-4 after rallying from behind in the second set.
OU nearly cut it to 3-2 when Dana Guzman jumped to a 5-0 lead in the third set against Chavatipon at No. 4, but Guzman couldn’t close out her match before Texas picked up the clinching point on the next court.
At No. 5, OU’s Alexandra Pisareva dropped the first set 7-5 to Allura Zamarripa, then took a 5-4 lead in the second set with a powerful volley before Zamarripa rallied herself to force the tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Pisareva hit two early volleys into the net, fell behind 3-1 and couldn’t catch up.
Texas joined Stanford and Florida as the third program to defend its national title.
Still, Sunday was the culmination of an historic season for the Sooners.
OU was ranked No. 2 for much of the winter/spring season and also finished national runner-up at the ITA Indoor Championships in Madison, WI, with their first loss of the season coming to North Carolina in the championship match.
The Sooners finish the season 32-3 overall in team competition, with their only other loss to Texas in the Big 12 Championship finals. OU was 2-2 against the Longhorns, with both losses coming in championship matches.
The NCAA Individual Championships begin Monday and conclude Saturday in Champaign.