Pioneers earn second in SAC preseason poll, Lopez and Mota named All-Conference

Pioneers earn second in SAC preseason poll, Lopez and Mota named All-Conference

ROCK HILL, S.C. --- Defending South Atlantic Conference women's tennis champion Tusculum University has been picked to finish second in the preseason coaches poll, released Thursday. Senior Julia Lopez was named preseason All-Conference in both singles and doubles, teaming up with fellow senior Africa Mota for second-team honors in doubles.

The Pioneers, ranked 19th in the first Intercollegiate Tennis Association Division II poll of the 2020 season, posted a perfect 10-0 record in conference matches to win their first outright SAC title since 2009. Tusculum finished 17-4 overall and 18th in the final ITA Division II rankings for the 2019 season.

Lopez is preseason second-team All-SAC in singles after compiling a 9-2 singles record during the fall for the Pioneers, including a perfect 3-0 record against Division I opponents during the Western Carolina Invitational and a trip to the round of 16 at the ITA Southeast Regional. The Zaragoza, Spain native, ranked 16th in the Southeast Region in singles by the ITA, has a four-year record of 41-17 in singles, including a 17-6 mark in tournament play, and is 24-13 all-time in doubles at Tusculum.

Lopez and Mota teamed up to go 3-2 during the fall season for the Pioneers, which included advancing to the round of 16 at the ITA Southeast Regional. Mota, who hails from Palma de Mallorca, Spain, is 39-20 in her career in doubles and was 16-9 while playing with Lopez last season. The duo is ranked 10th in the Southeast Region in doubles in the preseason ITA rankings.

Wingate captured seven first-place votes and took the top spot in the poll with 128 points, followed by the Pioneers with four first-place votes and 120 points. Queens had the other first-place vote from the coaches and was third in the poll with 99 points, with Lenoir-Rhyne (99 points), Anderson (86) and Lincoln Memorial (74) rounding out the top half of the poll. Carson-Newman (67 points) was seventh, with Newberry and Catawba tied for eighth with 65 points. Coker (50 points), Mars Hill (31) and conference newcomer UVa-Wise (23) slotted in at positions 10 through 12.

The Pioneers open the spring portion of their schedule on Sunday, Feb. 2 against nationally-ranked Indianapolis in a neutral-site match at Louisville, Kentucky. Tusculum's conference schedule begins on Saturday, Feb. 15 at Newberry, with the home opener slated for Saturday, Feb. 22 against Young Harris at the Nichols Tennis Complex. The Pioneers conclude the regular season at Carson-Newman on Wednesday, April 8.

South Atlantic Conference Women's Tennis
Preseason Coaches Poll
Rk Team (1st)       Pts
1. Wingate (7)      128
2. TUSCULUM (4)     120
3. Queens (1)       116
4. Lenoir-Rhyne      99
5. Anderson          86
6. Lincoln Memorial  74
7. Carson-Newman     67
t8 Newberry          65
t8 Catawba           65
10 Coker             50
11 Mars Hill         31
12 UVa-Wise          23

2020 Women's Tennis Preseason All-Conference
First Team Doubles
Elisa Aguirre / Judit Gonzalez Agud, Newberry
Sasha Davidzenka / Yana Fleyer, Queens
Gemma Southwick / Diana Babinets, Lenoir-Rhyne

Second Team Doubles
Mirna Curcic/Anna Greer, Anderson
Isabel Fornies/Caity Klaassen, Queens
Julia Lopez / Africa Mota, Tusculum

First Team Singles
Alisa Rudenko, Wingate
Sophie Hirsch, Catawba
Yana Fleyer, Queens
Ana Carla Resende, Carson-Newman
Sasha Davidzenka, Queens
Gemma Southwick, Lenoir-Rhyne

Second Team Singles
Julia Lopez, Tusculum
Liza Akimenko, UVa-Wise
Viktorija Veselinova, Queens
Chyi Lee, Wingate
Camilla Ciaccia, Wingate
Isabel Fornies, Queens