GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University volleyball team has released its 2018 schedule announced TU head coach Michael Robinson. (2018 Schedule)
The Pioneers will play a 26-match schedule which will include nine contests against teams that advanced to last year's NCAA Division II Tournament.
Robinson, who is entering his 11th campaign in Greeneville, returns seven letter-winners from last year's 15-16 squad that finished fourth in the South Atlantic Conference. Tusculum will play its first eight matches at Pioneer Arena, a venue which TU had much success going 8-3 in 2017.
Tusculum will host a pair of tournaments before opening league play in September. TU will host the SAC Regional Crossover on Aug. 31 and Sep. 1 at Pioneer Arena. Tusculum will face Conference Carolinas members Emmanuel, Belmont Abbey and King along with CIAA member Chowan in the two-day event.
Chowan won the CIAA North Division crown last year as the Hawks posted a 16-12 overall record and moved onto the semifinal round of the CIAA Tournament. This will be the first recorded meeting between Tusculum and Chowan.
The Pioneers and Emmanuel will also be squaring off on the volleyball court for the first-time ever. Emmanuel went 20-13 last year and finished first in the Conference Carolinas South Division.
On Sep. 1, Tusculum hosts Belmont Abbey as the Crusaders finished runner-up in the North Division of the league. The Crusaders went 17-12 in 2017 and this will be the eighth meeting between TU and Belmont Abbey in a series which the Pioneers own a 5-2 advantage. Tusculum and the Abbey last met in 2014.
In-state foe King will wrap up the weekend event as the Pioneers and Tornado meet for a 32nd time (TU leads series 17-14). King placed fifth in the Conference Carolinas North Division and finished the year with an 11-15 record including a pair of losses to the Pioneers.
TU hosts the Tusculum Classic the following weekend (Sep. 7-8) with five matches on tap but only two involving the host Pioneers. On Sept. 7, Tusculum will face Montevallo as the Falcons and Pioneers meet for a ninth time and first since 2016 (UM leads 7-1). Montevallo posted a 14-14 worksheet in 2017 and finished seventh in the Gulf South Conference.
Tusculum hosts Georgia College on Sep. 8 as the two Southeast Region foes will meet for a third straight year. The Bobcats enjoyed an outstanding season in 2017 going 24-8, finished third in the Peach Belt Conference and earned a berth to the NCAA Tournament where they advanced to the regional semifinals. Tusculum beat GC in 2016 in the Bobcats only visit to Greeneville. Georgia College evened the series with a win a year ago.
The Pioneers will open its 20th South Atlantic Conference season on Sep. 14 when they host the Catawba Indians. Catawba finished last in the league and ended the year with a 6-19 overall record including a pair of losses to TU.
Tusculum welcomes Queens University of Charlotte on Sep. 15 in the 14th meeting between the two programs. The Royals are coming off its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance following a third place conference finish. Queens went 23-8 overall while splitting a pair of thrilling five-set matches with the Pioneers.
The Pioneers will play its next five matches on the road to close out the month of September. TC hits the road for the first time in 2018 with a Sep. 18 trip to long-time rival Lincoln Memorial. It will be the 58th meeting in a series which began in 1989 (LMU leads 32-26). LMU posted a 13-16 record and finished seventh in the SAC including a 1-1 record against TU last season.
Tusculum travels to defending conference champion Anderson on Sep. 21 to face the Trojans. AU captured its first SAC title snapping Wingate's 11-year championship run. The Trojans went 28-5 overall including 19-1 in league play with two wins over Tusculum as the Pioneers still hold a 15-9 advantage in the series. Anderson advanced to the semifinal round of the NCAA Southeast Regional where they were eliminated by top-see and eventual region champion Flagler.
TU remains in the Palmetto State to face Newberry on Sep. 22. The Pioneers swept last year's two meetings with the Wolves as NBY finished 10th in the conference and a 9-18 overall record. Tusculum maintains a 23-18 advantage in the series which started in 1999 when the Pioneers joined the conference.
On Sep. 25, the Pioneers travel to cross-mountain rival Mars Hill for the first of two regular season contests. The two teams split last year's two encounters holding home court advantage in each. TU leads the series 37-17 as Mars Hill is coming off a 11-17 worksheet as the Lions placed sixth in the league.
Tusculum wraps up the road trip on Sep. 28 as the Pioneers face Lenoir-Rhyne. The Bears finished ninth in the SAC with a 10-16 record including a split of the season series with Tusculum. TU leads Lenoir-Rhyne 26-20 in the all-time series with the Bears.
The Pioneers are back home on Oct. 2 when they host arch-rival Carson-Newman at Pioneer Arena. The Eagles put together a strong last season surge to post a 17-15 overall record and finished tied for fourth in the league standings. C-N advanced to the SAC Tournament championship game as the Eagles knocked off Tusculum in the quarterfinal and upset top-seed Anderson in the semis. C-N earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles went 2-1 against the Pioneers last season as TU holds a 29-27 edge in the series.
Tusculum will wrap-up the first half of the league slate Oct. 5-6 when they welcome Wingate and Coker to Greeneville. Wingate finished runner-up in the conference but closed out the postseason strong winning the SAC Tournament title and advanced to the NCAA Southeast Region championship match before being eliminated by top-seed Flagler. The Bulldogs posted a 27-4 overall record including two wins over Tusculum to extend their series record to 42-6 over the Pioneers.
On Oct. 6, Coker comes to town after finishing eighth in the conference and going 14-17 on the year overall. The Cobras went 1-1 against Tusculum last season as the Pioneers have a 9-2 series edge.
The second half of the season begins with return match-ups at Catawba and Queens on Oct. 12 & 13. Lincoln Memorial (Oct. 16), Anderson (Oct. 19) and Newberry (Oct. 20) come to Greeneville for three straight home outings before a trip to Jefferson City to battle Carson-Newman on Oct. 23.
The Pioneers host Lenoir-Rhyne on Oct. 26 followed by the Oct. 30 regular season home finale with Mars Hill. Tusculum will travel to Wingate and Coker the weekend of Nov. 2-3 to conclude the regular season.
The top-eight teams in the conference will qualify for the SAC Tournament beginning with quarterfinal matches on Nov. 6 followed by the semifinal and finals on Nov. 9-10, hosted by Coker in Hartsville, South Carolina.
The NCAA Regionals will be held Nov. 15-17 at campus sites with the regional winners advancing to the Division II National Championship which is being held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as part of the DII Fall Sports Festival.