Pioneers record 20th victory in Friday's win
GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Senior Allyson Ray recorded nine kills and three blocks to lead the Tusculum College volleyball team to a 3-1 South Atlantic Conference win over visiting Newberry College on Senior Night at Pioneer Arena.
The Pioneers (20-5, 14-2 SAC) won the match by scores of 25-13, 25-23, 24-26, 25-19 to complete the season-sweep over the Wolves (13-14, 5-10 SAC). This marks the twentieth 20-win season in the history of the program. The 2010 Pioneers become the quickest team to reach 20 victories in 16 years. The 1994 team recorded its 20th win in its 24th match of that season.
TC rookie Rhayne Smitherman posted a match-high 14 kills to go along with three blocks and a .324 hitting percentage. Kassie Voelker added 10 kills and hit .333, while freshman setter Ashley Sarmiento finished with a double-double with 49 assists and 16 digs. Rookie libero Caitlyn Dean added a match-best 36 digs, Sam Underwood tallied 13 kills and 10 digs, and Bailee Price recorded a dozen digs in the win.
Newberry’s Samantha Parrish had a solid outing as she finished with 13 kills and 12 digs, while five other players posted double-figure digs, including Brianna Blakely (17), Kara Harris (16), Nadia Andrade (12), Lindsey Hollingsworth (10) and Blair Browning (10). Browning also finished with 30 assists, two service aces and a pair of blocks in the loss.
The Pioneers jumped out of the gate quickly with an 8-2 lead, en route to winning the first set 25-13. Tusculum hit .486 in the frame (19-2-35), including five kills by Ray as TC’s lone senior hit .444 (5-1-9).
Tusculum looked to be off to another torrid start in the second set, vaulting out to a 5-0 lead. With the Pioneers leading 9-3 following a kill by Sarmiento, the Wolves answered with three straight points thanks to solo blocks by Parrish and Sarah Scott and a service ace by Harris to trim the deficit to 9-6. Tusculum would later lead 22-15, but Newberry rallied with a 7-1 run, including three kills by Leah Nye and two aces from Hollingsworth as the Wolves trailed 23-22. But kills by Voelker and Underwood sealed the set down the stretch as TC prevailed 25-23.
The third set was a back-and-forth battle that saw four ties and three lead changes. Newberry led 3-1 thanks to a kill from Nye, but Tusculum responded with a 9-1 spurt that included three kills by Ray and a kill each by Price and Voelker as the Pioneers led 10-4. With TC leading 15-10, Newberry would chip away at the deficit and get the score to 18-17 following block assists from Scott and Nye. A Smitherman kill gave the hosts a 22-20 advantage, but kills from Harris and Anne Staudinger tied the frame at 22-22. Voelker pulled TC to within match point with her kill to give TC a 24-23 lead, but Newberry staved off elimination with three straight points, including a Harris service ace and a Staudinger kill on set point as the Wolves won 26-24.
The Pioneers never trailed in a fourth set that still saw five ties, including the last one at 12-12. Tusculum scored three straight points to spark a 13-7 run to close out the match, including a pair of Smitherman kills and a Ray kill on set point record the victory on Senior Night.
Tusculum will host Anderson University in its regular-season home finale at Pioneer Arena, beginning at noon. The Pioneers are currently ranked third in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional poll, while the Trojans are listed eighth in this week’s rankings.
Newberry will be at Mars Hill on Saturday afternoon for a 5 p.m. match at Stanford Arena.
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