INDIANAPOLIS --- And then there were NINE! Tusculum University tennis student-athlete Annie McCullough has been named one of the nine national finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award announced officials Thursday.
The nine finalists, three women from each NCAA division, were selected for their outstanding achievements in academics, athletics, community service and leadership.
Finalists were chosen from the Top 30 Woman of the Year honorees, who represent 10 honorees from each division and 14 sports, including two emerging sports. In 2020, schools nominated 605 graduating female student-athletes for this prestigious award.
The finalists and Top 30 honorees will be celebrated and the 2020 NCAA Woman of the Year will be announced during a virtual awards show on Friday, November 13. The show will be streamed on the NCAA Twitter account and ncaa.org/woty, and it will be streamed by ESPN.
McCullough becomes only the third South Atlantic Conference student-athlete to advance to the top-nine round joining Lenoir-Rhyne University distance runner Kate Griewisch (2012) and Carson-Newman University softball player Elayna Siebert (2016).
McCullough graduated from Tusculum last May with a 3.985 cumulative grade point average and earned her bachelor's degree, majoring in chemistry with minors in mathematics and solar research. She was named the SAC Women's Tennis Scholar Athlete of the Year for a second straight season and also returned to the CoSIDA Academic All-America® team in back-to-back years, earning second team honors in 2019 and first team accolades in 2020.
The Belfast, Northern Ireland native is a member of the SAC Commissioner's Honor Roll, Tusculum Athletic Director's Honor Roll, Dean's List, President's List and Charles Oliver Gray Honors List. She has garnered ITA Scholar Athlete accolades every season she has been at Tusculum and has been tabbed to the Division II Athletic Directors Association Honor Roll in each of the last two years.
She was one of the founding members of the hydrogen evolution research program at Tusculum, which is designed to develop a catalyst for use in solar energy applications. She was the recipient of the TU Senior Key Award for Excellence in Chemistry in 2020 and the Northeast Tennessee Section of the American Chemical Society Outstanding Graduating Senior Award.
"Annie continues to be the epitome of a Tusculum Pioneer," said TU head tennis coach Adam Jackson. "She is as dedicated to her academic pursuits and community service as she is to her success on the tennis court, and she is very talented in both fields. She has been an outstanding ambassador for our university and our tennis program."
Annie, along with her twin sister Caitlin, became the first student-athletes in Tusculum women's tennis history to earn NCAA Division II All-America distinction by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA). The McCullough duo was one of 16 teams honored in doubles, while Annie was among 23 student-athletes recognized in singles competition.
The McCulloughs finished as the national runner-up in doubles at the ITA Division II Cup and ended the fall season with a 10-3 overall record. The sister duo concluded the fall campaign ranked No. 2 in the Oracle/ITA Division II Women's Tennis National rankings and had a 4-2 record against ranked opponents during the fall. The McCulloughs did not appear in any matches during the spring due to injuries, and boast an impressive 54-12 record in three seasons together at Tusculum thus far.
In singles competition, the 2020 SAC International Woman of the Year went 10-3 during the fall 2019 season to boost her career singles record (dual matches and tournaments) to 91-15. She was ranked seventh in Division II in singles at the conclusion of the fall portion of the season.
"The most important lessons I learned and experiences lived are not measured in awards or accolades given or records set. Rather, I believe it has been through the standards and examples I set as a student, athlete, teammate, friend and member of the community that will be my most important legacy at Tusculum," said McCullough.
During her stellar career, she has been named the University's Female Athlete of the Year on two occasions (2017-18 & 2018-19). She has earned All-Conference in each of her TU seasons including 2019 when she was named the SAC Women's Tennis Player of the Year.
She assists in the Tusculum University Tutoring Center where she helps her fellow classmates in a variety of subjects and disciplines. She has also been active in working in the community where she has volunteered with the Make-A-Wish program, volunteered reading to kindergarten students at a local school, served as an instructor at numerous youth tennis clinics and was active with the University's Nettie Day of Service.