Pioneers fall to two-time champs Armstrong State 5-1 in NCAA opener

Pioneers fall to two-time champs Armstrong State 5-1 in NCAA opener

SAVANNAH, Ga. --- Armstrong State began its pursuit of a third consecutive NCAA Division II Women's Tennis national championship with a 5-1 victory over Tusculum in the opening round of the Southeast Region on Monday afternoon.

The fifth-ranked Pirates (23-4), seeded second in the regional, won two out of three doubles matches and took the first three singles contests to defeat the seventh-seeded Pioneers (20-7), who were making their first NCAA appearance since 2014. Armstrong will face Flagler in the second round on Tuesday after the Saints defeated North Georgia 5-1 on Monday.

Armstrong State won the first point of the match at flight one of doubles, as the number-two nationally-ranked team of Lena Lutzeier and Diana Stomlega defeated Katarina Majorova and Franziska Funke by a score of 8-3. Tusculum evened the score at 1-1 at flight three as Brittani Brooks and Amber Lackey teamed up for an 8-5 win over the Pirates' Alice Patch and Tamri Chalaganidze. Armstrong State took a 2-1 lead into singles as Tatjana Stoll and Lenka Styblova downed Annie McCullough and Jule Brass 8-2 at flight two.

In singles, Stomlega downed Africa Mota 6-1, 6-0 at flight three for a 3-1 Pirates lead, followed by a 6-1, 6-0 victory for Chalaganizde over the Pioneers' Sarah Baker at flight five. Lutzeier, ranked fourth in singles in Division II by the ITA, wrapped up the match with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Funke at flight one.

All seven of the Pioneers' losses this season came to nationally-ranked opponents, as Tusculum finished the year with a 3-7 mark against ranked opponents. McCullough led the Pioneers with a 20-4 record in singles, followed by first-team All-SAC honorees Funke at 18-9 and Majorova at 15-7.

Tusculum was particularly dominant in doubles play, going 63-18 in dual matches including a 20-5 mark by the team of Majorova and Funke which earned them first-team All-South Atlantic Conference honors. The all-freshman team of Brooks and Lackey went 17-6 for the Pioneers, while McCullough and Brass were 12-4 in doubles play.

Baker was the lone senior for the Pioneers, finishing her four-year career with a singles record of 39-33. The Marietta, Georgia native had a winning record in doubles this season at 8-4, pushing her career mark to 15-7.