19th-ranked Pioneers snap Wingate's 76-match SAC win streak in 4-3 thriller

Julia Lopez had the clinching point in the win over Wingate (photo by Chuck Williams)
Julia Lopez had the clinching point in the win over Wingate (photo by Chuck Williams)

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Julia Lopez rallied from a set down for a three-set victory in the final singles matches as Tusculum University snapped Wingate University's streak of 76 consecutive regular-season South Atlantic Conference women's tennis victories with a 4-3 win Saturday afternoon at the Nichols Tennis Complex.

Lopez beat Chyi Lee 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 as the 19th-ranked Pioneers (13-2, 8-0 SAC) handed the 11th-ranked Bulldogs (14-1, 7-1 SAC) their first loss of the season and first loss in a regular-season conference match in just over seven years. Tusculum was the last conference team to beat Wingate during the regular season, coming by a 5-4 score on March 26, 2012.

The Pioneers swept doubles to take an early 1-0 lead, then went up 3-1 behind wins from Annie McCullough and Emilie Hansen in singles. The Bulldogs were able to even the match at 3-3, but Lopez was able to come back after dropping the first set, breaking Lee in the final game to clinch the win.

In doubles, the Pioneers received a 6-3 win at flight one as Annie McCullough and Caitlin McCullough upset the 24th-ranked Wingate team of Michela Verpelli and Alisa Rudenko. At flight three, Hansen and Brittani Brooks clinched the doubles point with a 6-4 win over Sydney Homan and Camilla Ciacci, while Lopez and Africa Mota, ranked 33th nationally, finished the sweep with a 6-4 win over 29th-ranked Claudia De Andreis and Lee.

Wingate tied the score at 1-1 at flight five as De Andreis defeated Mota 6-1, 6-4, but 65th-ranked Annie McCullough restored Tusculum's lead with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) win over 31st-ranked Verpelli at flight one. Hansen pushed the Pioneers in front 3-1 with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 win at flight three over Hsu.

Needing one more singles win to clinch the match, the Pioneers saw the Bulldogs draw even as 71st-ranked Rudenko beat Caitlin McCullough 6-2, 6-4 at flight two and Ciacci beat Marras 6-3, 6-0 at flight six. Lopez then fought back for the win over Lee at flight four as Tusculum defeated their third ranked opponent in their last five matches.

The Pioneers will close out the regular season with two conference matches next week, hosting Lincoln Memorial on Wednesday at 2 p.m. and at Catawba on Saturday at noon.