GATLINBURG, Tenn. --- Belmont Abbey defeated Tusculum 13-10 in non-conference women's lacrosse action Saturday afternoon at Rocky Top Sports World.
Marin Felsoci and Rebecca Luca scored five goals apiece for the Crusaders (1-0), trailed 4-3 in the first half but otherwise held the lead the entire match against the Pioneers (1-1). Felsoci scored twice in the first five minutes of each half, while Luca had three first-half goals for Belmont Abbey in the win.
Juliette Cusano scored four goals and had an assist for the Pioneers, while Rachel Holmes had two goals and an assist and Megann McKinney scored twice. Madison Malone had three assists for the Pioneers, who turned the ball over 30 times and were outshot 29-23 by the Crusaders.
Felsoci scored twice in the first four minutes to give Belmont Abbey a 2-0 lead, but Cusano scored each of the Pioneers' first three goals in a span of just under 3 1/2 minutes. Eliza Ryan scored to give Tusculum its only lead at 4-3 with 21:49 left in the first half, but Belmont Abbey came back on a goal from Rebecca Stromberg and two from Luca to go on top 6-4 with 13:51 remaining in the half. Erin Sims cut the deficit to 6-5 for the Pioneers with 10:34 left in the half, but neither team would score again before intermission.
Felsoci extended Belmont Abbey's lead to 7-5 just nine seconds into the second half, then scored against with 25:12 left for an 8-5 Crusader lead. Holmes got one back for the Pioneers just 22 seconds later, but goals 31 seconds apart from Yasmina Hernandez and Luca left Belmont Abbey with a 10-6 lead with 21:08 remaining. Felsoci's fifth goal of the afternoon gave Belmont Abbey its largest lead at 12-7 with 16:34 to go, before goals from Holmes and McKinney brought the Pioneers back within 12-9 with 6:13 left.
Luca and McKinney swapped goals 17 seconds apart with just over three minutes left, and Belmont Abbey goalie Annie Brannon made two saves in the final 90 seconds to keep Tusculum from mounting a last-ditch comeback attempt. Brannon finished with 12 saves in goal for the Crusaders, as the Pioneers put 22 of their 23 shot attempts on target.
Tusculum finished with 23 ground balls in the match, led by Ryan and Jordan Smith with three apiece. Malone led all players with eight draw controls and Cusano added seven as Tusculum had a 16-9 edge in draws over Belmont Abbey. Cusano and Emily Gleason paced the Pioneers with three caused turnovers, as Tusculum forced 14 of Belmont Abbey's 24 turnovers in the match.
For the Crusaders, Felsoci had a team-high five draw controls to go along with thre ground balls. Abby Kranich led Belmont Abbey with four ground balls, and Bryn Kelly had a game-high four caused turnovers. The Crusaders were successful on 22-of-28 clear attempts, compared to 15-for-21 for Tusculum.
Brooke Wagner started in goal for the Pioneers before giving way to Kate Pipkin, who played most of the first half and a portion of the second half before Wagner returned. Both goalies finished with four saves for the Pioneers, with Pipkin playing nearly 33 minutes and Wagner just over 27 minutes between the pipes.
Tusculum will return to action on Wednesday, Feb. 21 on the road at Virginia-Wise, starting at 4 p.m.