SALISBURY, N.C. --- Katie Barth scored the tiebreaking goal with 6:10 remaining to boost Catawba to a 13-11 victory over Tusculum in South Atlantic Conference women's lacrosse action Saturday afternoon at Shuford Stadium.
With the win, the Indians (10-7, 6-2 SAC) clinched third place in the conference and will host Lincoln Memorial in a quarterfinal match on Tuesday. The Pioneers (6-10, 4-4 SAC) tied for fourth place with Wingate but will travel to play the Bulldogs in a quarterfinal contest on Tuesday.
Barth finished with four goals for the Indians, while Gianna Pezzulo had two goals and three assists as Catawba outshot Tusculum by a 36-27 margin. The Indians also had a 16-9 edge in draw controls and held the Pioneers scoreless on nine free-position shot attempts.
Madison Malone paced Tusculum with a goal and seven assists, one short of her career high, for a season-best eight points to go along with eight draw controls. Savannah Elliott scored four goals to lead the Pioneer offense, with two goals from Rachel Holmes and a goal and two assists from Erin Sims.
After no scoring for the first nine minutes, the team combined for eight goals over a span of 5 minutes, 46 seconds to leave the score tied at 4-4. Juliette Cusano, Holmes, Elliott and Claire Stanton had the Pioneer goals during the surge. Holmes gave the Pioneers a 5-4 lead with 11:59 left in the first half, but Pezzulo tied it with eight minutes left as the teams again went dry on offense and carried the 5-5 tie all the way to halftime.
Becky Frost scored 18 seconds into the second half to give the Indians a 6-5 lead, but Elliott tied the score at 6-6 with 20:32 remaining. Goals from Frost and Brooklyn Tilley 28 seconds apart extended the Catawba lead to 8-6 with 18:53 to go, but Malone and Barth exchanged goals 35 seconds apart as the Indians lead remained at two goals at 9-7 with 17:24 left. Tusculum cut the margin to 9-8 on a goal by Megann McKinney with 14:11 left, but Pezzulo scored with 9:48 remaining to push Catawba ahead 10-8.
The Pioneers tied the game at 10-10 as Sims scored with 7:32 left followed by Elliott with 6:47 to play, but Barth restored the Indians' lead at 11-10 just 37 seconds after Elliott's goal. Barth added her fourth of the game with 5:03 remaining for a 12-10 Catawba lead, but Elliott responded with 4:16 to go as Tusculum came within 12-11. Tusculum had a shot for the tying goal with 2:29 left, but Catawba goalie Madison Anselmo made a save to preserve the lead. The Pioneers had another possession in the final minute which ended in a turnover, and the Indians' Imani Grays scored an insurance goal with 12 seconds left.
Tilley led the Indians with five draw controls, while Grays had three ground balls and a pair of caused tunovers. Pezzulo and Frost each recorded three draw controls, with Nicole Hunt and Anselmo each recorded two caused turnovers apiece. For the Pioneers, Stanton had two ground balls and two caused turnovers, with two ground balls apiece from Holmes, Sims, Shelby Gray, Jordan Smith and Christen Craig.
In goal, Kate Pipkin played all 60 minutes and made a season-high 16 saves for the Pioneers, while Anselmo had nine stops for the Indians.
Tuesday's SAC quarterfinal match will represent the fourth time in as many years of the program that Tusculum will participate in the conference tournament. The Pioneers are 1-3 all-time in the SAC Championship tournament, and will be facing Wingate for the first time in the postseason.
The Tusculum-Wingate winner will play top-seeded Lenoir-Rhyne in the semifinals on Friday at Wingate, with the championship match scheduled for Sunday, April 29 also at Wingate.