GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- After earning a sixth-place finish in the final South Atlantic Conference standings, the Tusculum University women's soccer team will head to the road to face Lenoir-Rhyne University in a SAC Championship quarterfinal match Tuesday at 5 p.m. in Hickory, North Carolina.
The Pioneers (8-6-3 overall) were 5-3-2 in conference matches this season, including a solid 3-1-1 record in league road contests. Tusculum has appeared in the SAC Tournament all 20 years it has been a member of the conference, and the Pioneers are assured an eighth straight winning season and a 20th consecutive non-losing campaign.
The Bears (10-5-1 overall) tied for second place in the SAC with Lincoln Memorial at 7-3-0 in conference matches, but the Railsplitters dropped the Bears to the number-three seed by way of a 2-1 victory in the head-to-head meeting on October 13 in Hickory.
Tusculum and Lenoir-Rhyne are meeting for the seventh time in the SAC Championship tournament, the fourth time in the quarterfinals and for the second straight season. Last year, the Pioneers hosted the Bears in the quarterfinal round and advanced on penalty kicks after the teams played to a 1-1 draw. Tusculum is 2-2-2 all-time against Lenoir-Rhyne in the SAC tournament, winning in the 1999 quarterfinals and 2005 finals and losing in 2002 and 2008.
Lenoir-Rhyne won the regular-season meeting between the schools at Pioneer Field on Sept. 26 by a 3-1 score as Abbie Brown and Hannah Van Eerden each finished with a goal and an assist for the Bears. The victory was the third in a stretch of five straight wins for the Bears, followed by three straight losses and then three wins in a row to end the regular season.
The Pioneers had a balanced offense in 2018, spreading its 25 goals among 13 different players. Junior midfielder Sonja Ballmert was the team's leading scorer with four goals and four assists for 12 points, while senior defender Nicole McMillen tied for the league lead with eight assists. Sophomore midfielder Kate Guildford scored three goals, all game-winners, and senior defender Emma MacDonald scored on each of her three shot attempts.
Tusculum's goalkeeping duties were split between senior Hannah Graham and freshman Bailey Bosler. Graham had a 1.16 goals against average and a SAC-leading .820 save percentage in nine starts, with a 4-3-2 record, while Bosler compiled a 1.62 goals against average and a .797 save percentage while going 4-3-1 in eight starts. Both Graham and Bosler finished the season with a pair of shutouts.
Brown, a senior forward and SAC Player of the Year candidate, finished the regular season as the top scorer in the SAC with 16 goals and six assists for 38 points. Brown also led the conference with six game-winning goals, and had 10 goals and six assists for 26 points in 10 league matches. Junior midfielder Aqsa Mushtaq had five goals and four assists for 14 points and Van Eerden, a junior forward, added five goals and a pair of assists for the Bears.
Senior goalkeeper Loren Sterling started all 16 matches for Lenoir-Rhyne, finishing with five shutouts and a 0.99 goals against average that ranks fourth in the conference. Sterling was fourth in the conference in save percentage at .812 and was third with 69 saves.
The winner of Tuesday's match will face either second-seeded Lincoln Memorial or seventh-seeded Queens in the semifinals on Friday, Nov. 2 at 1:30 p.m. at Manchester Meadows in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The championship match will be played at Manchester Meadows on Sunday, Nov. 4 at 1 p.m.
South Atlantic Conference Women's Soccer Championship
Tuesday, Oct. 30 (at Highest Seeds)
Game 1: #8 Wingate at #1 Carson-Newman, 5:00 p.m.
Game 2: #5 Catawba at #4 Anderson, 5:00 p.m.
Game 3: #7 Queens at #2 Lincoln Memorial, 2:00 p.m.
Game 4: #6 Tusculum at #3 Lenoir-Rhyne, 5:00 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 2 (Manchester Meadows, Rock Hill, S.C.)
Game 5: winner game 1 vs. winner game 2, 11:00 a.m.
Game 6: winner game 3 vs. winner game 4, 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 4 (Manchester Meadows, Rock Hill, S.C.)
Game 7: winner game 5 vs. winner game 6, 1:00 p.m.