ROME, Ga. --- Tusculum University's Annie McCullough and Caitlin McCullough advanced to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Division II national championship in dramatic fashion, beating fourth-seeded Nikol Alekseeva and Anna Novikova of Indianapolis in the semifinals on Friday at the Rome Tennis Center.
The McCulloughs beat Alekseeva and Novikova 4-6, 7-6 (11-9), (11-9) to move into Saturday's Division II championship against Natalie Espinal and Sarah Wardenburg of Nova Southeastern, who beat Valentina Gonzalez and Eva Ovcina of Angelo State 6-4, 6-1 in the other semifinal.
The Division II champion will then play off with the Division III, NAIA and JUCO doubles champions for the ITA Cup and a berth in the ITA National Fall Championships in Newport Beach, California.
After dropping the first set, the McCulloughs went up 5-3 in the second set and had three set points at 5-4 but were unable to put away Alekseeva and Novikova. The McCulloughs went back up 6-5, but dropped the final game to send the set into a tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, the Pioneer duo faced match point at 6-7 and again at 8-9, but were able to rally to force a 10-point match tiebreak.
The McCulloughs came back from 1-3 to go ahead 8-4 in the match tiebreak, but Alekseeva and Novikova rattled off five straight points to go ahead 9-8. Facing a third match point, the McCulloughs came back to 9-9 and then won the last two points to advance to Saturday's Division II championship.
Annie McCullough also competed in singles during Friday's action, dropping a 6-2, 6-2 decision to defending ITA Cup champion Berta Bonardi of West Florida. Annie McCullough will play a consolation match against Anna Savchenko of Azusa Pacific on Saturday.