Tusculum falls 4-2 in SAC Tournament Women's Tennis Final

Tusculum finishes runner-up at 2019 SAC Women's Tennis Tournament Championship (photo courtesy of Hugh Patton, Wingate Athletic Communications)
Tusculum finishes runner-up at 2019 SAC Women's Tennis Tournament Championship (photo courtesy of Hugh Patton, Wingate Athletic Communications)

ROCK HILL, S.C. --- In a match that took 12 hours to get in as second-seeded Wingate University outlasted top-seeded Tusculum University 4-2 to win the 2019 South Atlantic Conference Women's Tennis Tournament title Saturday at the Rock Hill Tennis Center.

The Bulldogs (20-1) avenged its only loss of the season to claim the program's fifth SAC Tournament title and first since 2015.  Tusculum snapped Wingate's record 76-match SAC winning streak earlier this month in Greeneville.  The Bulldogs (No. 14 in NCAA II) exacted a bit of revenge by halting TU's 14-match winning streak. The Pioneers (17-3 – No. 17 in NCAA II) last loss came on Feb. 25 in a 5-2 loss at No. 13 North Georgia.

Wingate earns the league's automatic berth to next month's NCAA Division II Tournament.  Tusculum will await the word of an at-large bid, which would be the program's third consecutive national postseason berth and 11th in school history.

Wingate captured the doubles point by winning at the top-two flights as Michael Verpelli and Alissa Rudenko, the 38th ranked doubles team in NCAA Division II, won 6-4 over TU's No. 31 ranked duo of Annie and Caitlin McCullough.  WU's No. 2 tandem of Chyi Lee and Claudia De Andreis (No. 34 in NCAA II) won 6-3 against TU's Julia Lopez and Africa Mota (No. 37 doubles team in NCAA II).

Rudenko, who is ranked 59th in DII singles, won 6-3, 6-3 over Caitlin McCullough at the No. 2 flight to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.  Tusculum's Emilie Hansen accounted for TU's first points of the match with her 6-0, 6-1 win over Riann Hsu as the Pioneers trailed 2-1.

Verpelli, the No. 24 singles player in the country, won the first set 6-3 over 2019 SAC Player of the Year Annie McCullough.  The TU junior answered with a 6-1 win in the second set to force a deciding frame. But Verpelli came out on top 6-4 to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead in the contest.

Lopez pulled the Pioneers back to within a point a 3-2 with her straight set (6-4, 6-20 win over Lee at No. 4 singles.

But De Andreis wrapped up the title for the Bulldogs with her 6-4, 7-5 win at the fifth flight to end the match which suffered numerous rain delays since starting the match around 12:30 p.m.