GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Cassie Born racked up career-highs with 26 kills and 26 digs as the Tusculum volleyball team edged Lincoln Memorial 3-2 in a five-set South Atlantic Conference thriller Tuesday night at Pioneer Arena.
The Pioneers (3-3, 1-1 SAC) won the match by scores of 25-19, 19-25, 25-22, 25-19 and 15-13 to hand the Railsplitters (4-1, 1-1 SAC) their first loss of the season.
The contest included 21 ties and eight lead changes with five deadlocks alone in the fifth and final set.
Born's 26 kill-performance is the eighth-best in a Tusculum five-set match and the most by a Pioneer in over a decade. The Pioneers held a 67-53 advantage in kills as the senior duo of Laryssa Welch and Sabrina Schleuger tallied 10 each.
The loss spoiled the outstanding defensive performance by LMU libero Erica Whiteaker who became only the third player in conference history to eclipse 50 digs in a match. Her 51 digs broke her own program mark and are a new Pioneer Arena record. Her 51 digs were the third-most in league history and broke the Pioneer Arena mark posted by former TC All-American Caitlyn Dean who tallied 49 digs against LMU in 2011 in another five-set marathon.
Tusculum setter Shannon Murphy established a career-best with her 55 assists to go along with 20 digs, three kills and two blocks. TC libero Melissa Mazur added 20 digs, while also tallying three assists and two service aces in the victory.
Kiera Holland led LMU with 15 kills, while Rylee Storms added a dozen kills and a match-high eight blocks for the visitors.
The opening frame was a tight contest with neither team leading by more than two points through the early going. TC broke a 10-10 tie with a 7-1 run to vault out to a 17-11 lead. The Railsplitters cut the deficit to 19-15 and 20-16, but TC got kills from Mariah Lewis and Schleuger to win the set 25-19.
LMU bounced back hitting .265 in the second set and limited the Pioneers to hit .094 as the Railsplitters won 25-19 to even the match at a set apiece. Storms led the charge with her six kills in the frame, while Whiteaker accounted for 10 digs, defensively as LMU led wire-to-wire.
Tusculum trailed early in the third set 4-1, but the Pioneers went on a 10-4 run to a take an 11-8 lead as Born contributed four kills during the spurt. TC extended the lead to 15-10 on an ace from Born. TC led 19-14, but LMU responded with an 8-3 run to tie the set at 22-22. But the Pioneers closed out the frame with a kill from Born and back-to-back kills from Welch as TC won 25-22 to claim a 2-1 lead in the match.
Tusculum held an 11-9 lead early in the fourth set, but LMU snatched the momentum of the frame with a 7-1 spurt as the Railsplitters led 16-12 following back-to-back LMU blocks. Lincoln Memorial maintained a five-point lead at 20-15 following a kill by Alicia Kessler, but TC won three consecutive points to trim the gap to two at 20-18 following another kill from Born. LMU stayed alive closing the set on a 5-1 run capped by two Tusculum attack errors and a Storms kill as the Railsplitters prevailed 25-19. In the set, Whiteaker kept LMU in the match with her defensive play as she accounted for 16 digs alone in the fourth frame.
LMU looked to carry the momentum into the fifth set as the Railsplitters led early at 4-2. But the Pioneers went on a 7-2 run to take a 9-6 lead and forcing Lincoln Memorial into a timeout. LMU answered with a 6-3 run to tie the set at 12-12 following a TC attack error.
But a LMU service error and a kill by Schleuger on an overpass on the ensuing serve game Tusculum match point at 14-12. A TC service error cut the lead to one, but Welch put the match away with a kill to seal the Tusculum victory.
LMU out-hit the Pioneers .161 to .143, but Tusculum owned a 63-49 advantage in assists and edged the Railsplitters 95-92 in digs.
Tusculum returns to action this Friday when they travel to Lenoir-Rhyne for a 7 p.m. SAC match in Hickory, North Carolina.