Pioneers Suffer Heartbreaking Loss to Railsplitters in Five Sets

Pioneers Suffer Heartbreaking Loss to Railsplitters in Five Sets

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum women's volleyball team fell just short of a massive comeback after dropping the first two sets to in-state SAC foe Lincoln Memorial on Friday night.

The visiting Railsplitters (7-17, 6-11 SAC) claimed the match over the Pioneers (12-11, 9-8 SAC) by scores of 25-21, 25-21, 12-25, 20-25, 15-13.

Lincoln Memorial's offense was led by Lindsey Nartker and Rylee Storms with 13 and 12 kills, respectively. Emily Walter dished out 40 of the team's 45 assists. At the service line, Storms and Sarah Jones were the lone Railsplitters to collect an ace. Nartker and Emma Winford led the team with 16 digs apiece. Yileen Ng He was the best blocker for the Railsplitters with five total (two solo, three assists).

Emiah Burrowes tied her career-high 22 kills on the night, while Tatum Thornton created a new-personal best with her 13 kills. Thornton finished with a .476 hitting percentage for the match. Gabby Gray added 14 kills to the effort as well. Elise Carmichael collected 32 assists with Catherine Clingan contributing 21. Gray handed out a season-high three aces, along with Carmichael's three. Four Pioneers scooped up double-digit digs: Carly Sosnowski (25), Gray (19), Britney Shawel (10), and Clingan (10). At the net, Taylor Blythe made her presence known with seven block assists, followed by Thornton with five. Carli Pigza and Burrowes were both credited with four block assists, with Burrowes tying her career-high mark.

Lincoln Memorial hit .140 as a team with 47 kills and 23 errors in 171 total attempts. Tusculum hit .196 with 61 kills, 28 errors, and 168 total attacks. The Pioneers led the Railsplitters in assists (60-45), aces (11-2), digs (84-72), and total blocks (12-9).

Tusculum started off the match with incredible force, winning the first four points of the set. Lincoln Memorial made a short run to lessen the lead. Points jostled back and forth and the Railsplitters took the lead for good at 17-16, claiming the set 25-21.

The second set also belong to the Railsplitters by the same margin. Once again, the first point when to the Pioneers, but were not able to keep the lead. Tusculum was able to retake the advantage at 15-14, with neither team backing down. The score was tied the final time at 20, with the visitors notching five of the last six points.

For the third straight set, Tusculum won the opening point. The Pioneers managed to keep the momentum throughout, allowing just two ties at the beginning and no lead changes. The Black and Orange hit .591 with only one attack error, while holding Lincoln Memorial to a negative percentage. Thornton went three-for-three and Gray collected four kills on six swings. Burrowes contributed five kills for the third consecutive set. The 25-12 win included three four-point spurts by the Pioneers.

Pigza notched the first point of the frame, followed by consecutive aces by Carmichael. The Railsplitters made a steady comeback to take a four-point lead at 13-9 before Tusculum turned on the jets, winning seven of the next eight. This span gave the Pioneers the lead for the rest of the set, taking it 25-20 to force a decisive fifth set.

In the final frame, the Pioneers held a six-point lead (11-5), but Lincoln Memorial rattled off five consecutive points to close the gap. After dropping a point on a service error, the Railsplitters finished off Tusculum after collecting five of the final six points, including the last three.

Tusculum looks to bounce back on Saturday afternoon, hosting SAC opponent Carson-Newman at 5:00pm in Pioneer Arena.