SPARTANBURG, S.C. --- The Tusculum University women's volleyball team came back from a two-set deficit to overpower Division I USC Upstate on Tuesday evening. The victory is the first time that the Pioneers have won against the Spartanburg team since the pair first played in 2000 and the first time they have matched up in Upstate's Division I era. The Black and Orange move to 2-2 on the season ahead of its South Atlantic Conference opener this weekend.
The Pioneers, sparked by four Tusculum rookies, battled to the finish against the Spartans (0-6) to bring the all-time series to 1-3 in Upstate's favor. The Black and Orange won by scores of 21-25, 16-25, 28-26, 25-23, 15-12.
Tusculum posted a .150 hitting percentage as TU finished with 57 kills, 29 errors, and 187 attempts. USC Upstate tallied a .165 attack percentage with 58 kills, 30 errors and 170 attempts. The Saints finished the day with six service aces to go along with 13 total team blocks and 86 digs. The Pioneers had six aces with six total blocks and 70 digs.
Tusculum freshman Emiah Burrowes continues to improve her career-high kills in each match. On the evening, she finished with 18 kills, 11 digs, and a solo block. Carly Sosnowski had a team-high 24 digs, while freshman Elise Carmichael collected a match-high 31 assists and five service aces. Sydney Byrd was a force with five kills in key moments to swing the momentum. Gabby Gray recorded a double-double with 10 kills and 13 digs, alongside three block assists.
Emily Russell led the match with 20 kills for the Spartans at a rate of .643, along with one solo block and four block assists. Mikenzie Young-Mullins dug up a match-high 26 hits with two aces. Annalisa Mendoza and Scout Hoffmeier split the setting duties with 28 and 23 assists, respectively.
The first set included three ties and one lead change. The Spartans were led offensively by Russell and McKenna Kirkpatrick with four kills apiece. Upstate hit .154 while TU hit .116, with four kills coming off of the right hand of Burrowes. The home team took the opening frame, 25-21.
The second set went the Spartans' way again with a 25-16 frame score. Upstate used five total blocks to disarm and stall the Pioneers offense, hindering Tusculum to hit just .026 to the Spartans' .211. Gloria Ikenegbu collected four kills, while the Black and Orange managed nine.
With their backs against the wall, Tusculum had to win in order keep the match alive. Burrowes answered the call with seven kills and no errors in the third set. A total of 15 ties and six lead changes made the frame competitive. Once the scores hit 20, the teams traded points to tie at 26 before the Pioneers pulled away for good. Burrowes capped the set with an emphatic kill to finalize the score at 28-26.
Tusculum carried over its momentum from the third set into the fourth, winning it in a close one, 25-23. Burrowes took 16 swings with one solo block, while Gray picked up four digs and two block assists. The Pioneer offense improved while the defense shut down the Spartans, holding them to a hitting percentage of .094.
Set five was a battle start to finish with the Pioneers prevailing in the end. Tusculum hit .409 with only one attack error in the shortened frame to close out the night. Sosnowski covered the court, picking up crucial digs, while Tatum Thornton, Gray, and Burrowes recorded three kills apiece. Tusculum closed out the statement win with a freshman-to-freshman combination: a Carmichael assist and a Burrowes kill.
Tusculum returns to action on Friday the 13th at Lincoln Memorial to begin its conference schedule at 7pm.