MARS HILL, N.C. --- Juliette Cusano scored seven goals as Tusculum University earned its second straight victory with a 16-15 win over Mars Hill University in South Atlantic Conference women's lacrosse action Tuesday night at Meares Stadium.
Cusano's seven goals tied her career high set on March 21 against Lees-McRae and boosted her career total to 99 goals. Her final goal of the game came with 13:51 left and turned out to be the game-winner as the Lions scored the final three goals to cut the final margin to one.
Rachel Holmes and Eliza Ryan each scored three goals for the Pioneers (4-8, 2-2 SAC), while Brittany Lowery and Bailey Lowery each had a goal and an assist. Jessica Spiegel also scored for the Pioneers, with two assists from Emily Youngblood. Victoria Eckard led the Lions (4-8, 1-4 SAC) with four goals, and Maria Fabrizio, Molly Tobias and Kiersten Foust each scored three times for Mars Hill.
The game stats were in line with the final score, as Tusculum had a slim 36-32 edge in shot attempts while each team put 25 on goal. Tusculum also had an 18-15 edge in draw controls and a 24-23 advantage in ground balls, while each team turned the ball over 19 times. Tusculum went 5-for-10 on free-position shots and Mars Hill was 5-for-11, and the Pioneers were 16-for-20 on clears compared to 18-for-28 by the Lions.
The Lions jumped to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Eckard with 26:29 left in the first half, before Cusano scored her first of the evening with 24:09 remaining to tie the score at 1-1. After the Lions' Tobias scored for a 2-1 lead 40 seconds later, the Pioneers came back with goals from Brittany Lowery and Ryan to go ahead 3-2 with 19:58 to go. Eckard tied the score at 3-3 27 seconds after Ryan's goal, but Tusculum went back ahead 5-3 on goals from Cusano and Jessica Spiegel, the latter with 16:59 left in the half.
Mars Hill would come back with five of the next six goals, including a pair from Fabrizio, to go on top 8-6 with 10:14 left in the half. However, Holmes scored twice in 1:07 to tie the game at 8-7 with 8:13 remaining in the first half. After Mars Hill regained its two-goal lead at 10-8, Cusano scored two goals to tie the game at 10-10 at halftime, the latter goal coming with seven seconds remaining.
The Lions went up 11-10 on a goal by Fabrizio with 27:13 to go, but were held scoreless for nearly 13 minutes as the Pioneers ran off five straight goals to take a 15-11 lead with 16:29 left. Cusano scored a pair of goals and Holmes, Bailey Lowery and Ryan added goals during the run for the Pioneers. Mars Hill broke the drought on a goal by Kiersten Foust with 14:15 remaining, but Cusano's seventh of the game put Tusculum on top 16-12 just 24 seconds later.
After a goal by Foust with 10:27 left, the teams would go more than nine minutes without a goal until Scout Black brought the Lions within 16-14 with 1:12 remaining. Another goal from Eckard cut the Tusculum lead to 16-15 with 40.4 seconds to go, and Mars Hill won the ensuing draw with a chance to tie. However, the Lions were unable to get a shot away before time expired as the Pioneers held on for the win.
Cusano had nine draw controls for the Pioneers while Youngblood, Brittany Lowery and Holmes had three each. Tobias and Foust each had four draw controls for the Lions, with Black collecting three. Ryan had a team-high six ground balls for the Pioneers and Youngblood picked up five, while Tobias paced the Lions with four ground balls in the match.
Tusculum goalkeeper Kate Pipkin finished with 10 saves and Gini Joy had nine stops for the Lions.
The Pioneers will travel to Coker for a SAC matchup with the Cobras beginning at noon on Saturday.