GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University women's volleyball team has its 2019 home opener this week as part of a three-match stand in Pioneer Arena. The three matchups will feature South Atlantic Conference competition.
The Pioneers topped Division I USC Upstate before being swept by Lincoln Memorial and Carson-Newman in consecutive days to open its conference slate. The Black and Orange looks to earn its first SAC win with three chances on the week, hosting UVa-Wise, Mars Hill, and Lenoir-Rhyne.
RECAPPING THE WEEK
Tusculum completed a comeback to take the five-set thriller over the Division I Spartans, but has been shutout the past two matches against the Railsplitters and Eagles to begin SAC play.
Freshman Emiah Burrowes led the offense with 29 kills and junior Gabby Gray collected 20. Sophomore Taylor Blythe shined in key moments during the week. She racked up 19 kills on a .500 hitting percentage with only one error. In the match against Lincoln Memorial, the Seymour, Tennessee native hit .611 with 11 kills and no miscues. Carli Pigza (13) and Tatum Thornton (12) also recorded double-digit kills.
Defensively, Britney Shawel stepped up in her first two collegiate starts at libero. She scooped up 47 digs (5.22 per set) along with three service aces. Her 28 digs against LMU, her first career start, are currently the second-most in a three-set match in Division II this season. Five other Pioneers were effective on the back line: Gray (31), Carly Sosnowski (24), Burrowes (20), Elise Carmichael (16), and Alyssa Rojas (15). At the net, Thornton headed up the charge with seven total blocks (one solo, six assists). Blythe racked up six total with two credited as solo blocks. Pigza racked up six block assists in her own right.
The setting duties were split between Carmichael and Rojas during the 11 sets of the week. The freshman Carmichael saw action in every set and dished out 62 assists (5.64 per set) alongside six aces. Rojas participated in 10 sets with a combined 40 assists.
UVa-Wise is off to an 1-3 (0-2 SAC) start in its first season the conference, being swept the last three matches by UNC Pembroke, Carson-Newman, and Lincoln Memorial. The Cavaliers are led offensively by Ciara Kain and Matelyn Gibson with 37 and 32 kills, respectively. The attack is fueled by 86 assists from Makayla Ledford. On the back row, Morgan Milligan leads the SAC-newcomers with 62 digs (4.43 per set), while Brooke Abbott has nine block assists at the net.
The Pioneers and Cavaliers have played 22 times in their series history with TU winning 21 of the meetings. UVa-Wise finished 5-25 overall last year and were in a tie for last place in the Mountain East Conference final standings.
After Tuesday's home match, the Pioneers stay in Greeneville for the weekend, taking on Mars Hill Friday at 7pm and Lenoir-Rhyne Saturday at 2pm.
Mars Hill (2-3, 1-1 SAC) hosts Carson-Newman on Tuesday before heading to Tennessee for Friday's match. The Lions swept Catawba before being blanked by Queens. Sarah Goddard drives the offense with 46 kills, while the two-setter rotation of Sara Pasour and Jordan Schmucker have 75 and 69 assists, respectively. The defense is spurred by 81 digs from Ully Martins and 16 blocks from Sally Anne Johnson.
Mars Hill will stay on the road to face SAC foe UVa-Wise on Saturday evening. The teams have played one another since 1986, with the Black and Orange holding the series 37-19.
Lenoir-Rhyne (6-1, 2-1 SAC) started the season on a five-match win streak before being halted by Queens on Friday. The Bears bounced back with a five-set win over Lincoln Memorial yesterday. Taylor Prall is having an impressive beginning to her junior season, racking up 109 kills (4.36 per set) on a .264 hitting percentage. Aided by Prall's tear, Helen Hamilton has been credited with 190 assists (7.60 per set) through only 25 sets. On the defensive end, Ashley Hawkins has collected 119 digs with Jackie Denny has blocked 20 attempts at the net (six solo, 14 assists).
The Bears play UVa-Wise on Friday night in Virginia before traveling to the Pioneers on Saturday. Tusculum holds the slight edge in the all-time series with Lenoir-Rhyne, dating back to 1996, with a record of 27-21.
Links to live stats and video for Tusculum University athletic events can be found through tusculumpioneers.com.