The Dink Pickleball

The Dink Pickleball Logo
Pickleball Lives Here
Player Profiles

How Liz Truluck and Ava Ignatowich Went from Davidson Tennis Standouts to Top 20 Pickleballers

by Erik Tice on

Ava Ignatowich and Liz Truluck played junior tennis from a young age, had multiple D-1 offers in tennis and both played for the Davidson College Women’s tennis team.

They then both fell into pickleball shortly after their time at Davidson, and they have never looked back.

Growing Up and Juniors Tennis

Liz Truluck grew up in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina with six siblings. She played many different sports growing up, choosing to focus on tennis in her teenage years. Truluck played tennis as a freshman and sophomore in high school, winning two-straight 3A State Championships.

Give Yourself an Edge with LMNT

The key to good performance on the Pickleball court is proper hydration. And everybody knows the best way to hydrate is with LMNT.

Their perfect science-backed ratio of 1000 mg sodium, 200mg potassium, and 60mg magnesium mixes with any drink and can give you an edge over the competition. Plus, LMNT's drink mix has everything you need and nothing you don’t so you won’t feel sluggish.

Give it a try and see how LMNT can help your game! Plus, readers of The Dink can get a free sample pack with drink mix purchase!

She was named the Region VI 3A Player of the Year two years in a row during her freshman and sophomore year. As the No. 1 singles player on her high school team as a sophomore, Truluck went 14-0. She also went 7-0 in No. 1 doubles on her way to helping the team to two straight championships. During her high school career, she went an astonishing 49-4.

As with most elite tennis players, Truluck chose to attend virtual high school for her junior and senior years. While attending virtual school, Truluck was able to attend more elite juniors tournaments nationally and rose to 56th overall in the country by her senior year according to Tennis Recruiting Network.

Liz, a four star recruit, had narrowed down her offers from Wofford, Fordham, and Davidson. She was looking to stay at a small school with great academics and a high level of tennis – Davidson fit the bill and she committed to the Wildcats and enrolled in 2018.

Ava Ignatowich grew up in South Florida and has three siblings – the most famous of course being James Ignatowich, her older brother. James played D-1 tennis at Vanderbilt and is widely considered a top 10 pickleball player in the world. Ava also has a little brother Nico, 12, who is already a 4.5 pickleball player while also training for tennis.

Ava has a similar story to Liz, in that she grew up playing tennis from a very early age. Ava enrolled in Florida Virtual School to start her high school career so she could attend more juniors events. Ignatowich was listed as high as 130st nationally according to Tennis Recruiting Network.

As far as college decisions, Ava was really looking for a school that would challenge her academically and grow her as a person beyond tennis. Davidson checked all the boxes – great education, an Honor Code that helped make the decision for Ava, and a great tennis program.

Tackling Tennis at Davidson

Truluck started at Davidson in the fall of 2018, earning a starting spot right away. She went 3-0 from the No. 4 spot and 14-6 from the No. 5 spot in the rotation. In addition to singles, Truluck went 12-11 in the No. 1 slot in doubles with Megan Scholvinck. Liz was named the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week twice during her freshman season.

Truluck’s sophomore campaign was cut short, as she only got to play in the fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The fall of 2020 is when Liz and Ava first met. Liz was in her junior year, while Ava was a freshman. The team didn’t have as much success as it would have liked – going 6-15 overall – but won its first round match of the A-10 Tournament 4-0 against George Mason. Liz won the No. 1 doubles match, her No. 2 singles match, and Ava played well in her No. 4 slot in that first-round matchup. 

The highlight of the year for Ava was a big 4-3 win over conference opponent Radford. Ignatowich was in the No. 6 slot with the match tied 3-3, and ended up winning her third and final game, 6-2. Ava admits this was her favorite memory in terms of tennis at Davidson, as the entire match was on her shoulders and she was able to step up for her teammates.

Liz’ highlight from her career at Davidson was the semifinal run that Davidson made in the spring of 2020. 

In the first round of the A-10 Tournament, Liz won her No. 1 slot in doubles and No. 5 slot singles matches, helping the team to a 4-1 victory over Saint Joseph’s. Liz then won her No. 5 singles match easily – 6-3, 6-1 – and won her No. 1 doubles match as well. Even though it was a loss, Liz fondly remembers playing the semifinals match against VCU at night under the lights with a crazy amount of fans cheering and the great team atmosphere. 

Truluck played one more year for Davidson, helping the team to a 13-8 overall record as a senior, making another semifinal run in the A-10 Tournament. She graduated with a bachelor's degree in Studio Art.

Truluck credits her mother with always supporting her with whatever endeavors she pursued, whether it was tennis, her art, or now her pickleball. 

After her freshman year at Davidson, Ava decided that she was too far away from family and decided to withdraw, taking a gap year to figure out what was next for her.

Finding Pickleball

Speaking of next steps, Truluck and Ignatowich found pickleball in very similar fashions. Truluck stayed around North Carolina after graduating and started coaching tennis at the Charlotte Country Club. On one occasion she had to fill in for the tennis director to teach a pickleball lesson, not really knowing all the rules and strategies. From there, Truluck started playing more and more with her colleagues at the tennis club.

Ava had gone up to the Hamptons to teach tennis and her club had recently constructed some pickleball courts. Ignatowich had the most knowledge of the game, thanks to her brother, so she was immediately named the head coach of pickleball. From there, she taught the other tennis coaches and they played all summer after working all day.

On her drive back from New York to Florida, Ava told her brother James that she was good – he definitely didn’t believe her. Obviously his only option at that point was to sign her up for a tournament. Ava played her first 5.0 tournament because her brother signed her up for it, and she earned a bronze medal.

A Career in Professional Pickleball 

After playing a few pro events on the PPA Tour, both Ignatowich and Truluck signed with the PPA Tour during the “Tour Wars”. They signed three-year contracts with the organization, providing some financial stability to their pickleball careers.

Shortly thereafter, Ava had her best result of her career at the 2023 Cincinnati Open. As the No. 12 seed, she beat the No. 21 seed Jeanette Miller, 11-6, 11-1 in the first round. She followed that up with a win over No. 13 seed Ekatarina Biakina, 12-10, 11-5. She then lost to Anna Leigh Waters in the semis and then fell in the bronze medal match to Rachel Rohrabacher – both world class singles players.

Ignatowich credits a lot of her success to her mother and her brother James. They have both been extremely supportive throughout her career. One of her favorite moments in pickleball is playing with James in the Beer City Open – she loves playing with him and despite his larger-than-life personality, he is always Ava’s biggest fan.

Ignatowich and Truluck paired up for the US Nationals in November of 2023, earning a 20th place finish in women’s doubles.

Liz made the best run of her singles career at PPA Mesa earlier this year - making it all the way to the Round of 16. As the No. 13 seed, Truluck beat No. 45 seed Angie Walker, 11-6, 11-1 on Championship Court. She followed that up with an 11-4, 12-10 win over No. 29 seed LingWei Kong. In the Round of 16, she was able to beat Allyce Jones, 11-6, 11-5. In the Round of 16, she came up against Anna Leigh Waters, the best player in the world, losing in two games.

Liz credits a lot of the North Carolina local pros for helping her get her career started. Jim Dobran, Eric Roddy, and Brooke Buckner have been instrumental in helping Liz learn the game of pickleball, especially in singles.

Where Things are Going

Liz is currently the 15th-ranked women’s singles player. Ava is right behind her at No. 16th on the PPA Tour.  Both ladies have aspirations of becoming top 10 players on the PPA Tour in singles.

In speaking with both Liz and Ava, one of the biggest takeaways they recall from their time at Davidson was to focus on the small things on and off the court. They both credit head coach Susanne Depka and assistant coach Kelly Larkin for a lot of their continued success in singles on the PPA Tour. Ava still journals every day after her practices and matches to ensure she knows what she wants to work on. Liz really credits her coaches for her continued ability take care of herself off the court – regularly utilizing ice baths, stretching, and yoga – so she is ready to perform at the highest level. 

"Without the coaches at Davidson, Liz and I wouldn’t be the singles players that we are today,” Ana admitted. Liz agreed and cited the Davidson coaches for a lot of singles success as well.

The future is extremely bright for these two former Davidson Women’s Tennis Wildcats on the PPA Tour. Expect to see them crack the top 10 before long.

Pickleball Skill Quiz
Find out your pickleball rating
Erik Tice

Erik Tice

Erik produces content for The Dink related to pro and collegiate pickleball. He is an avid watcher of pickleball and became passionate about the sport in early 2022.

Read more