Pioneers release 2019 women's volleyball schedule

Pioneers release 2019 women's volleyball schedule

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University women's volleyball team will play 28 regular season matches including 22 contests against South Atlantic Conference competition with the release of its 2019 schedule. (2019 Schedule)

TU head coach Danielle Marante is entering her first season in Greeneville as she returns 15 letter-winners from last year's 6-20 squad.

The Pioneers open the season on Sep. 6-7 with three matches at the Bobcat Classic in Milledgeville, Georgia.  TU will take on host Georgia College on Sep. 6 followed by two matches on Sep. 7 against Lindenwood and Limestone.

Georgia College tied for fourth place in the Peach Belt Conference but made a strong conference tournament run which included a semifinal victory over top-seeded USC Aiken before falling to Augusta in the championship.  GC earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Division II Southeast Regional for a rematch with Augusta and knocked off the Jaguars in the opening match.

The Bobcats finished with a 17-13 overall record with included a 3-0 win over Tusculum in Greeneville to take a 2-1 lead in the all-time series with the Pioneers.

Tusculum will face Lindenwood for the first time in school history as the Lions are coming off a 16-14 record and tied for sixth place in the Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

TU will wrap up its Georgia road trip with a contest against region foe Limestone.  The Saints, who will join the South Atlantic Conference in all sports in 2020-21, finished third a year ago in the Conference Carolinas South Division and posted a 12-13 overall record.  TU leads the all-time series 6-1 and this will be the first meeting since 2012.

Tusculum will travel to Spartanburg on Sep. 10 to face NCAA Division I USC Upstate in the fourth meeting between the Pioneers and Spartans and the first meeting since 2002 when Upstate was a NCAA II program.

"We are looking forward to this season's schedule. With the addition of Limestone to our conference in 2020, we thought it would be a great opportunity to compete against them at the Bobcat Classic, as well as other great competition," said Coach Marante. "The matches against USC Upstate and King are other challenging opponents that will help prepare us for our demanding conference schedule. We couldn't be happier with the work our girls have put in this spring, and we are ready for the challenge that lies ahead."

Tusculum opens its 21st South Atlantic Conference campaign Sep. 13-14 with road trips to in-state foes Lincoln Memorial and Carson-Newman.  TU tips off against LMU on the 13th as the Railsplitters are coming off a 20-10 season and a third place finish in the league.  LMU had a strong postseason run finishing runner-up in the SAC Tournament.  LMU swept Tusculum last season to lead the series 34-26.

Carson-Newman tied for fourth place in the SAC posting a 16-13 record which included a split in the season series with Tusculum.  TU holds a 30-28 edge in the overall series with the Eagles.

After opening the season with six consecutive road matches, the Pioneers will play five of their next six at home beginning with the Sep. 17th home-opener with SAC newcomer Virginia-Wise.  The Cavaliers join the league after spending its first seasons as a NCAA Division II member in the Mountain East Conference. UVa-Wise went 5-25 last year and tied for 11th in the MEC.  Tusculum leads the all-time series with the Cavs, 21-1 and this will be the first meeting since 2016.

Mars Hill and Lenoir-Rhyne will be Tusculum's first weekend home opponents of 2019 Sep. 20-21 at Pioneer Arena.  MHU went 16-13 last season and tied for sixth place in the conference standings.  The Lions swept last year's two matches with TU to narrow the Pioneers' series lead to 37-19.  Lenoir-Rhyne posted a top-four finish in the SAC last season and went 17-11 overall.  The two teams split the season series in 2018 as Tusculum maintained a 27-21 advantage in the series history with the Bears.

Tusculum steps out of conference play on Sep. 24 as TU makes the short trip to Bristol to take on long-time nemesis King University.  The Tornado went 18-11 last year including a 3-0 victory over the Pioneers to trim TU's series lead to 17-15.  King finished third in the South Division of Conference Carolinas in 2018.

The Pioneers host Queens University of Charlotte on Sep. 27 as the Royals are coming off a 14-15 season and finished sixth in the league.  Queens won both meetings with Tusculum as the Royals trail the all-time series by the narrowest of margins at 8-7.

Catawba comes to Greeneville on Sep. 28 as the Catawba Indians finished eighth and recorded a 10-22 worksheet.  The two teams split a pair of thrilling five-set contests last year as Catawba maintained its lead in the series at 25-19.

Last year's SAC runner-up Anderson will be Tusculum's opponent to open the month of October.  The Trojans, who won the league title two years ago, posted an impressive 28-6 record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.  Anderson swept last year's series and have won six in a row over the Pioneers despite TU leading the all-time series 15-11.

Tusculum will close out its South Carolina weekend tour on Oct. 5 at Newberry.  The Wolves, who went 8-19 last year and finished 11th in the conference, split the two meetings with the Pioneers who own a 24-19 lead over Newberry.

TU, who will play only three home matches in October, hosts Coker on Oct. 11 followed by an Oct. 12 clash with defending SAC Champion Wingate at Pioneer Arena.

Coker went 13-16 last year with a season-sweep over Tusculum to move the all-time series to 9-4 in favor of the Pioneers.  Wingate was nearly unstoppable last year going 32-2, claiming the Southeast Region championship and earned a berth to the NCAA II Elite Eight where the Bulldogs were eliminated in the national quarterfinal.

The second half of the SAC schedule begins with five consecutive road matches at Queens (Oct. 18), Catawba (Oct. 19), Virginia-Wise (Oct. 22), Mars Hill (Oct. 25) and Lenoir-Rhyne (Oct. 26).

Tusculum returns home for three straight with a non-conference rematch with King (Oct. 29) and home weekend clashes with Lincoln Memorial (Nov. 1) and Carson-Newman (Nov. 2).  Two matches at Coker (Nov. 8) and Wingate (Nov. 9) before home rematches with Anderson (Nov. 15) and Newberry (Nov. 16) to close out the regular season.

The SAC Tournament begins on Nov. 19 with quarterfinal matches at campus sites with the winners advancing to the semifinal and championship round on Nov. 22-23 at the new Rock Hill Sports and Event Center in Rock Hill, South Carolina.

The NCAA Division II Tournament will begin with regional play Dec. 5-8 at campus sites with the regional champions advancing to the Elite Eight in Denver, Colorado (Dec. 12-14).