Cusano's career-high seven goals boosts Pioneers to 17-10 win over Lees-McRae

Juliette Cusano had a career-high seven goals and set a school record with 13 draw controls against Lees-McRae (photo by Chuck Williams)
Juliette Cusano had a career-high seven goals and set a school record with 13 draw controls against Lees-McRae (photo by Chuck Williams)

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Juliette Cusano scored a career-high seven goals to power Tusculum University to a 17-10 victory over Lees-McRae College in non-conference women's lacrosse action Thursday afternoon at Pioneer Field.

Cusano set a school single-game record with 13 draw controls and finished with a career-best eight points for the Pioneers (2-7), who received five goals and an assist from Rachel Holmes and a goal and three assists from Bailey Lowery. Emily Youngblood added two goals and an assist and Brittany Lowery finished with a goal and an assist for the Pioneers in the victory.

Victoria Orozco scored three goals for the Bobcats (0-6) with Katie Kendrick contributing two goals and a pair of assists. Beth Haynes scored twice and led all players with 10 ground balls and three caused turnovers for Lees-McRae, which was outshot 40-25 by Tusculum in the match.

Cusano's seven goals tied her with Savannah Elliott for the second-most in a single game in program history, behind Elliott's 10-goal performance against Converse on Feb. 16, 2017. Cusano's eight points are tied for the fifth most in a game in school history, and boosted her career total to 98 points as a Pioneer.

The 13 draw controls by Cusano broke the previous record of 11 established by Cheyenne Bray at Converse on Feb. 7, 2015, and she also set a school single-game record with 14 shot attempts which broke the record of 12 set by Kelsey Crow against Converse on Feb. 20, 2016.

Holmes' five goals included a tally with the Pioneers two players down due to yellow cards early in the second half which gave Tusculum a 10-7 lead. The Pioneers outscored the Bobcats 7-2 over the final 20 minutes to pull away for the victory.

Cusano won the opening draw and scored just 12 seconds into the game to give the Pioneers a quick 1-0 lead, but Kendrick tied it with 27:34 to go in the first half. Holmes then scored back-to-back goals to give the Pioneers a 3-1 lead, and Cusano added a goal 16 seconds after Holmes' second for a 4-1 Tusculum lead with 25:57 left in the half.

The Bobcats pulled within 4-2 on a goal by Madi Barry with 24:11 left in the half, but Youngblood scored for a 5-2 Tusculum lead with 20:48 remaining. Tusculum's Hailey Sanders was sent off with a yellow card with 19:59 to play in the half, but the Pioneers scored twice while a man down as Jessica Spiegel and Youngblood converted on free-position shots to extend the Tusculum lead to 7-2 with 18:48 to play in the first half.

A goal by Lees-McRae's Patterson Jones cut the margin to 7-3, but Bailey Lowery and Cusano scored 28 seconds apart to extend the Tusculum advantage to 9-3 with 14:56 remaining in the half. However, the Bobcats would score the next three goals in a three-minute span as Kalbie Grassett was followed by two from Orozco which cut the deficit to 9-6 with 10:16 to play in the half. Neither team would score the rest of the period as Tusculum carried its three-goal lead to intermission.

The Bobcats continued their run to start the second half as Kendrick scored with 26:00 remaining, and Lees-McRae gained a two-player advantage on yellow cards to Tusculum with 23:14 left. However, a turnover led to Holmes' third goal of the day with 21:37 remaining and a 10-7 Pioneer lead. Orozco made it 10-8 with 20:56 left, but Cusano and Holmes would combine for the next six Tusculum goals over a 12-minute span as the Pioneers went up 16-9 with 7:51 left.

Brittany Lowery scored the final goal of the day for Tusculum off a feed from sister Bailey with 3:44 left, and Haynes closed out the scoresheet with a free-position goal with 1:19 to play.

Tusculum collected 29 ground balls as a team in the match, with four apiece by Cusano and Meaghan Smith and three apiece by Eliza Ryan, Youngblood, Sanders and goalie Kate Pipkin. Lees-McRae had 28 ground balls as a team, led by Haynes' 10 and three from Christa Tumminello and Kat Reeves.

The Pioneers dominated the Bobcats on draws, winning 22 of 29 in the match. Youngblood had six draw controls to back up Cusano's record-setting total of 13 for the Pioneers, while Grassett paced the Bobcats with four.

Lees-McRae had 26 turnovers as a team in the contest, while Tusculum turned the ball over 29 times. Each team caused 10 turnovers, led by Haynes and Aley Shepard with three apiece for the Bobcats and two apiece from Cusano, Sanders and Linden Perkins for the Pioneers.

Tusculum was successful on 13-of-21 clear attempts while Lees-McRae converted on 21-of-29 clears. The Bobcats were 5-for-10 on free-position shots and Tusculum went 4-for-7 as a team.

Taylor Floyd started in goal for Tusculum and played the first 19:44, making three saves before giving way to Pipkin, who had four saves and allowed just four goals in the final 40:16. For Lees-McRae, Samantha Thomson gave up eight goals and had two saves in 14:36, but Emily Davidson came on and finished with 11 saves over the last 45:24 while giving up nine goals.

The Pioneers will host 15th-ranked Queens in a South Atlantic Conference match on Saturday at noon at Pioneer Field.