SALISBURY, N.C. --- The Tusculum University women's volleyball team traded sets with the Catawba Indians Saturday, surviving the five-set thriller. The Black and Orange move to 9-9 (7-6 SAC) on the season ahead of another week of South Atlantic Conference action.
The Pioneers, sparked by career nights from Gracee Peters, Gabby Gray, Carly Sosnowski, Catherine Clingan, and Sydney Byrd, battled to the finish against the Indians (5-11, 4-9 SAC) to bring the all-time series to 25-21 in Catawba's favor. The Black and Orange won by scores of 22-25, 25-19, 19-25, 25-22, 16-14.
Tusculum posted a .199 hitting percentage as TU finished with 67 kills, 29 errors, and 191 attempts. Catawba tallied a .221 attack percentage with 56 kills, 16 errors and 181 attempts. The Indians finished the night with four service aces to go along with five total team blocks and 85 digs. The Pioneers had 11 aces with seven total blocks and 92 digs.
Gray tied her career-high 23 kills, hitting at a .358 percentage. She added 13 digs to earn a double-double, while adding an ace, and three total blocks (one solo, two assists). Peters demolished her previous highs with 15 kills and 13 digs, alongside one solo block. Sosnowski dished out nine assists for her personal-high mark, while Clingan's seven aces is tied second in TU history for a five-set match. Byrd surpassed her previous best with five kills.
Additionally, Aubrey Hawkins finished with 11 kills, while Sosnowski and Clingan dug up 25 and 18 attacks, respectively. Clingan led the setting duo with 28 assists, with Elise Carmichael is credited with 25. At the net, Tatum Thornton totaled three block assists, while Hawkins and Carli Pigza added a pair each.
Claire Kellum led the Indians with 18 kills at a rate of .405, while Jade Brooks added 15 kills at a .316 clip. Jasmine Wooten also contributed 12 kills. Brooks collected half of the aces for Catawba with two. Malia Carr headed up the dig category, finishing with 24, while four others reached double figures. Ashley Johnson is credited with one solo block and four block assists at the net.
Gray scored the first and last points of the match, bookending the night. She notched seven kills in the first set. However, the Indians sped off after tying the set at three. Catawba stretched its lead to nine (20-11). Tusculum made a run, scoring 11 of the last 16 points, but the set went the home team's way.
The Pioneers rebounded with a set two victory to even the match. A 10-point run sparked a magnificent span, fueled by Gray with three kills and 1.5 blocks. Tusculum led 24-15 before Catawba attempted a comeback, scoring four straight points, before Gray nipped it with a kill assisted by Clingan.
Set three belonged to the Indians, due in part to their .382 hitting percentage and only one attack error. However, it was tightly contested in the beginning. Once the teams hit double-digits, Catawba never trailed, taking six of the next seven points. The lead stretched to eight (23-15) before TU scored four times to Indians' two.
Catawba hit .323 in the fourth set, but the Pioneers fought back to stay alive in the match. The Indians started the game with a 5-2 lead. Tusculum turned on the jets, notched eight-straight points, including three kills from Peters and three consecutive aces from Clingan. The Pioneers used the lead to bolt out to a 23-17 mark. Catawba scored four in a row to tighten the lead to two. Peters and Gray closed the set with thunderous kills.
The fifth set was a nail-biter as neither team wanted to concede defeat. Catawba netted the first two points before Tusculum scored eight of the next 11. The Pioneers kept a consistent three-point lead until the score was 11-10 and points were traded. Catawba fought off three match points, tying the final set at 14. Peters and Gray capped off their incredible nights with back-to-back kills, closing the book on the Indians.
Tusculum returns to action on Tuesday the 22nd at UVa-Wise to continue its five-match road trip.