GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum College volleyball team will play a 30-match schedule during the upcoming 2016 season, head coach Michael Robinson has announced. (2016 Schedule)
The Pioneers will face each of the other 11 members of the South Atlantic Conference twice, for a total of 22 league matches, while playing four matches each in tournaments scheduled for Bristol, Tennessee and Greeneville. Tusculum compiled an 11-17 overall record last season and went 8-14 in the conference, finishing in a tie for ninth place in the league.
Robinson begins his ninth season on the sidelines for the Pioneers in 2016, having compiled a record of 155-97 and qualifying his teams for six NCAA Division II Tournaments and seven trips to the SAC Tournament. In those eight seasons, the Pioneers have gone 95-57 in conference play, with three runner-up finishes.
The Pioneers will open their season with four matches at the King University Invitational in Bristol. Tusculum will play two matches on Friday, Sept. 2 against the host Tornado and Erskine, then two more matches on Saturday, Sept. 3 against Montevallo and Virginia-Wise.
King finished 19-13 overall last season and went 11-5 in Conference Carolinas, while the Flying Fleet went 23-7 overall and 15-1 in Conference Carolinas. Erskine won the conference tournament championship and defeated USC Aiken in the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional opening round before falling to Carson-Newman in the semifinals. Tusculum and King are deadlocked 14-14 in the all-time series, while the Pioneers' 3-0 win over Erskine last year was in their second all-time meeting, following a Pioneer victory in 2010.
Montevallo was 20-13 overall and went 11-7 in the Peach Belt Conference last season and the Falcons 6-1 series lead since first meeting in 1986. Virginia-Wise was 15-17 during the 2015 campaign, with a 10-6 mark in the Mountain East Conference. The Pioneers have dominated the all-time series with the Cavaliers, winning 20 of 21 meetings between 1993 and 2003.
Tusculum opens its South Atlantic Conference schedule on Wednesday, Sept. 7 when the Pioneers visit Lincoln Memorial. The Railsplitters finished 16-14 overall and went 12-10 in the SAC last season, placing them in a tie for fourth place. LMU advanced to the SAC Tournament semifinals before falling in five sets to Wingate. The Pioneers and Railsplitters split their season series, with Tusculum winning 3-0 at home and LMU capturing a 3-2 win in Harrogate. The Railsplitters lead the all-time series with the Pioneers by a 29-24 margin.
The Pioneers play their home opener on Tuesday, Sept. 13 against Mars Hill at Pioneer Arena, the first of five straight matches for Tusculum on its home court. The Lions went 8-21 last season and were 6-16 in the SAC, finishing in sole possession of 11th place. Tusculum won both meetings by identical 3-1 scores, giving them 10 consecutive victories over Mars Hill and a 35-15 advantage in the all-time series since 1986.
On Friday, Sept. 16, the Pioneers welcome Brevard to Greeneville for the final time as a conference member. The Tornados, who are moving to NCAA Division III beginning with the 2017 season, earned a SAC Tournament berth last year after going 12-17 overall and 9-13 in the SAC. The Tornados swept the season series from the Pioneers, winning 3-2 at home and 3-0 at Pioneer Arena, but still trail the all-time series by a 15-4 margin.
Defending SAC Tournament champion Lenoir-Rhyne makes its annual trip to Greeneville on Saturday, Sept. 17 following a year in which the Bears went 25-8 overall and 18-4 in the SAC. Lenoir-Rhyne, which swept Tusculum in both meetings, ended Wingate's nine-year reign as SAC Tournament champions by dethroning the Bulldogs 3-1 in the finals for their first-ever title. The Bears then advanced to the Southeast Region finals before falling 3-1 to Carson-Newman in an all-SAC final. Tusculum continues to lead the all-time series with Lenoir-Rhyne, 25-17.
The Pioneers continue their home stand on Friday, Sept. 23 against Queens University of Charlotte. The Royals finished in sixth place in the conference last season at 11-11, and had an overall mark of 13-16. The Pioneers won on the road in five games in last year's first meeting, but the Royals came back to post a 3-1 victory in Greeneville. Tusculum has a 7-2 edge in the all-time series with Queens, with a 5-1 mark since the Royals joined the SAC in 2013.
Tusculum closes out its stretch of home matches on Saturday, Sept. 24 against Catawba. The Indians tied for fourth place in the SAC at 12-10 a year ago and went 15-15 overall, earning a pair of five-set victories over the Pioneers in the process. The Indians hold the edge in the all-time series with the Pioneers by a 23-15 spread.
The Pioneers go back on the road on Tuesday, Sept. 27, making the short journey to Jefferson City to face defending Southeast Region champion Carson-Newman. The Eagles tied for second place in the conference at 18-4, then overcame a loss in the SAC Tournament semifinals to win three straight at the regional and advance to the NCAA Elite Eight. The Eagles, who finished 29-8 overall, picked up two victories over the Pioneers last season and trail by one win in the all-time series, 26-25.
On Friday, Sept. 30, the Pioneers begin a two-match swing through South Carolina with a contest at Anderson. The Trojans tied for seventh place in the conference at 9-13, and finished 11-18 overall. Both schools won on the other's court last season, with the Trojans taking a 3-0 victory in Greeneville and the Pioneers capturing a 3-1 road victory. Tusculum is 15-5 all-time against Anderson, including 10-4 since the Trojans joined the league for the 2010 season.
The Pioneers play at Newberry on Saturday, Oct. 1 to close out the road trip, against a Wolves team that the Pioneers tied at 8-14 in the conference. Newberry, which went 12-16 overall, lost 3-1 to the Pioneers on the road but swept Tusculum at home later in the season. The teams have played 37 times since 1999, with the Pioneers holding a 20-17 edge in the series.
Tusculum's fourth straight road match sends the Pioneers to Lenoir-Rhyne for the second meeting of the year with the Bears, and is followed by home matches against Coker on Friday, Oct. 7 and Wingate on Saturday, Oct. 8. Coker went 4-24 overall and 1-21 in the SAC last year, with two losses coming to the Pioneers in straight sets. The Pioneers are 7-0 all-time against the Cobras since the first meeting between the schools in 2012.
Wingate extended its streak of consecutive conference championships to 10 in 2015, but was defeated in the SAC Tournament semifinals in a bid for a 10th straight postseason title. The Bulldogs, who went 20-2 in the SAC, were bounced by Lander in the first round of the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional to finish at 28-5 overall. Wingate, which has lost just seven SAC matches in the last 10 seasons, defeated the Pioneers twice last season to improve to 37-6 all-time.
Pioneer Arena will host the South Atlantic Conference/Peach Belt Conference Crossover on Friday, Oct. 14 and Saturday, Oct. 15. The Pioneers will play a total of four matches during the two-day event, starting with contests against USC Aiken and Georgia College on Friday, followed on Saturday with games against Lander and Augusta.
USC Aiken won the Peach Belt regular-season title at 14-4 in the league, but was upset by Flagler in the finals of the PBC Tournament. The Pacers earned the right to host the NCAA Southeast Regional, but lost to Erskine in three sets in the quarterfinals to finish at 27-6. USC Aiken beat Tusculum twice last season and has won all six meetings all-time. Georgia College finished 12-16 overall last year and 6-12 in the Peach Belt Conference, and will be playing the Pioneers for the first time.
Lander tied for fourth place in the Peach Belt last year at 11-7, and finished 25-13 overall after being eliminated in both the conference tournament and Southeast Region semifinals. The Pioneers beat the Bearcats 3-2 last season to even the all-time series at six wins apiece. Augusta was 19-14 overall last year and went 8-10 in the conference, and will be meeting the Pioneers for the first time since 2012. Tusculum leads the all-time series by 8-2.
The second half of Tusculum's conference schedule begins on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at Mars Hill, continuing on Friday, Oct. 21 with a trip to Brevard. The Pioneers will host Carson-Newman on Tuesday, Oct. 25, then travel to Queens and Catawba for matches on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 28-29.
In November, the Pioneers play three consecutive home matches against Lincoln Memorial (Tuesday, Nov. 1), Anderson (Friday, Nov. 4) and Newberry (Saturday, Nov. 5) before closing the regular season with contests at Coker (Friday, Nov. 11) and Wingate (Saturday, Nov. 12).
The top eight teams in the regular season will qualify for the SAC Tournament, which begins with quarterfinals at campus sites on Tuesday, Nov. 16. The semifinals and finals will be played at Wingate on Friday, Nov. 19 and Saturday, Nov. 20. NCAA regional play will be the first weekend in December, followed by the Elite Eight in Sioux Falls, South Dakota from Dec. 8-10.