Pioneers climb to 15th in ITA Division II rankings

Pioneers climb to 15th in ITA Division II rankings

TEMPE, Ariz. --- The Tusculum women's tennis team climbed to 15th in the latest Oracle/Intercollegiate Tennis Association Division II national rankings, released Wednesday.

The Pioneers (13-0) moved up six positions to attain the highest national ranking in program history. Earning singles rankings this week are Katarina Majorova (16th), Annie McCullough (55th) and Franziska Funke (59th), while the doubles team of Annie and Caitlin McCullough climbed to fifth in the nation in Division II.

Tusculum owns victories over three teams in this week's ITA Division II rankings, a 7-2 win over 33rd-ranked North Georgia on Feb. 17, an 8-1 victory against 48th-ranked Palm Beach Atlantic on March 9, and a 6-3 triumph over 44th-ranked Young Harris last Friday. Upcoming matches include a date with 22nd-ranked Wingate on Saturday, 38th-ranked Queens on April 7 and 47th-ranked Newberry on April 14.

Majorova checks in at 16th in singles after opening the season with nine consecutive victories at number-one singles, including a 6-1, 6-3 win over 63rd-ranked Felicia Barrata of North Georgia and a 6-2, 6-2 triumph against 25th-ranked Laura Dean of Anderson. The sophomore from Martin, Slovakia also defeated 19th-ranked Candice Paya of Columbus State in three sets during the ITA Southeast Regional in early October.

Annie McCullough has a 9-0 record at number-three singles for the Pioneers, with a 6-3, 6-3 win over 47th-ranked Holly Bennett of North Georgia and a 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 win over Dean at the ITA Southeast Regional. The only two singles losses of the season for the sophomore from Belfast, Northern Ireland came in tournament action, in straight sets to third-ranked Beatriz Lopez of Columbus State in the ITA quarterfinals and to teammate Funke in the quarterfinal round of the Grizzly Open at Georgia Gwinnett in October.

Funke holds a 10-0 record in singles for the Pioneers this season, playing primarily at flight two, and has tied the program career record for singles wins with 64, set by Tusculum and SAC Hall of Fame member Lesley Murray from 2001 through 2004. The only win over a ranked opponent for the Bochum, Germany native was her victory over McCullough in the Grizzly Open semifinals, though she played and lost to 20th-ranked Jena Kelly of Georgia College in the round of 16 at the ITA regionals.

In doubles, the McCulloughs are 11-1 in dual matches for the Pioneers this season, owning a 9-7 win against North Georgia's 12th-ranked duo of Barrata and Bennett, an 8-0 victory against the 37th-ranked team of Maggie Walroth and Ashley Jonathan of Bellarmine, and an 8-3 triumph against 36th-ranked Polina Novachuk and Cynthia Carrier of Chowan. The duo's only dual-match defeat came by a score of 8-6 to the 26th-ranked team of Taylor Conti and Yuliia Russu of Palm Beach Atlantic. In addition, the McCulloughs beat the 34th-ranked team of Lopez and Noa Davico of Columbus State by a score of 8-4 in the ITA Southeast Region quarterfinals, but lost to North Georgia's Bennett and Barrata in the semifinals.

Beginning this season, the ITA has transitioned to a computer-based ranking system, which was used for the first time in this week's survey and awards point values based on the ranking of the opposing player or team at the time of the match. The ITA rankings will be released weekly through May 2.