#19 Pioneers surge in second half to 12-7 win over Mars Hill

#19 Pioneers surge in second half to 12-7 win over Mars Hill

MARS HILL, N.C. --- Tusculum outscored Mars Hill 7-1 in the second half to erase a halftime deficit as the 19th-ranked Pioneers defeated the Lions 12-7 in South Atlantic Conference men's lacrosse action Saturday afternoon at Meares Stadium.

Ben Boyd scored four goals for the Pioneers and Keegan Bell scored all three of his goals in the second half for the Pioneers (10-2, 6-1 SAC), who have won five consecutive games for the second time this season and remain in second place in the SAC standings with one regular-season contest remaining. Chris Ryan had three assists and Liam Macdonald added two goals and an assist, while Nate Wade had a goal and two assists for the Pioneers in the victory.

Dima Ferreira led the Lions (4-7, 1-6 SAC) with two goals while Alex Lipsky and Spencer Andrews had a goal and an assist in the loss. Mars Hill had a 43-25 advantage in ground balls and a 17-4 edge in faceoffs won, but turned the ball over 21 times and allowed Tusculum to score three times in seven extra-man opportunities.

Mars Hill took a 1-0 lead just 57 seconds into the first quarter on a goal by Andrews, but Ross Parsons tied the score at 1-1 just under 2 1/2 minutes later. A goal by the Lions' Connor Fernandes pushed Mars Hill back in front 2-1, but the Pioneers responded with four unanswered goals in the final eight minutes of the quarter, including three by Boyd, to go on top 5-2 at the end of the first.

The second quarter was all Mars Hill as the Lions outscored the Pioneers 4-0 and outshot them 10-5 to go to halftime with a 6-5 lead. Ferreira scored twice in the quarter, with the go-ahead goal coming from Keaton Lissel with 1:46 to play in the half.

The Pioneers came back at the start of the third quarter by scoring three times to go on top 8-6. Boyd scored the equalizer with 10:35 remaining in the quarter, followed by goals from Bell and Tyler Klarner. Mars Hill cut the deficit to 8-7 on a goal by Nathan Stewart with 2:47 left in the third, but that would be the final goal of the game for the Lions.

In the fourth quarter, the Pioneers scored three times in a three-minute span, including man-up goals from Nate Wade and Macdonald, to go ahead 11-7 with 10:04 left. Bell scored his second of the quarter and third of the half with 7:40 left, and the defense clamped down on the Lions who managed just three shots on goal the rest of the afternoon.

Parsons paced the Pioneer defense with three ground balls and two caused turnovers, while Andrew Kransberger, Wade and Quinn McKitrick each finished with three ground balls. Stewart led Mars Hill with nine ground balls, Asyuck Schildt had six ground balls and a caused turnover and Lipsky contributed four ground balls for the Lions. Addison Sowell won 17 of the 21 faceoffs he took for the Lions and had four ground balls.

Kevin Haggerty finished with 13 saves in goal for the Pioneers, marking the fifth time in the last six games and the seventh time this season that he had double figures in saves. Over the last three games, Haggerty has posted a .633 save percentage and has registered a 7.47 goals against average for the Pioneers. Ryan Kearney played all 60 minutes in goal for the Lions and had 11 saves.

Tusculum will close out the regular season next Saturday at 3 p.m. against Wingate (10-3, 5-2 SAC) at Pioneer Field on Senior Day. The winner will clinch second place in the conference standings and a first-round bye in the upcoming SAC Championship tournament.