Pioneers beat Catawba 4-1 to move into SAC semifinals

Brittani Brooks (left) and Emilie Hansen rallied from 2-5 down to win their doubles match (photo by Chuck Williams)
Brittani Brooks (left) and Emilie Hansen rallied from 2-5 down to win their doubles match (photo by Chuck Williams)

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University women's tennis team defeated Catawba College 4-1 in the quarterfinals of the South Atlantic Conference Championship tournament Tuesday afternoon at the Nichols Tennis Complex.

The 16th-ranked Pioneers (16-2), who are the top seed in the tournament after winning the regular-season championship, will play fourth-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne in the semifinals on Friday at 1 p.m. at the Rock Hill Tennis Center. The Bears beat Carson-Newman 4-1 in a quarterfinal match on Tuesday.

After clawing back to win the doubles point, the Pioneers put the match away with three straight-set wins in singles after the eighth-seeded Indians (12-9) won their only point on an injury default.

In doubles, the 25th-ranked Tusculum team of Annie McCullough and Caitlin McCullough defeated Erisa Onchi and Carolina Correia 6-2 at flight one. The Indians appeared poised to even up doubles as Olivia Wooldridge and Lauren Laughton led 5-2 and had three match points. However, the Pioneers' Emilie Hansen and Brittani Brooks came back to win the game, and then won the next four for a stunning 7-5 victory to clinch the doubles point. At flight two, the Pioneers' Africa Mota and Julia Lopez were tied 6-6 heading to a tiebreaker with Sophie Hirsch and Una Pandurevic when the point was clinched for Tusculum

In singles, Pandurevic earned a point for Catawba at flight three as Hansen was unable to continue after dropping the first set 6-0. However, Mota beat Laughton 6-2, 6-3 at flight six and Lopez downed Correia 6-4, 6-3 at flight four to push Tusculum ahead 3-1. Annie McCullough then clinched the match as she beat Onchi 6-2, 6-3 at flight one on Lesley Murray Hawk Court.

In unfinished matches, Hirsch led Caitlin McCullough 7-5, 2-2 at flight two and Martina Marras had a 7-6 (7-5), 1-2 lead on Wooldridge at flight five.

Tusculum is seeking its fifth SAC Championship tournament title and second in three years. The Pioneers also won tournament championships in 2004, 2008, 2014 and 2017. The Pioneers beat the Bears 5-2 in their regular-season meeting on the road on March 29.

The SAC Championship semifinal winners will meet for the conference championship on Friday at noon at the Rock Hill Tennis Center.