GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University women's volleyball team will be on the road for three more matches as it begins the first full week of the 2019 season and the opening of the South Atlantic Conference schedule.
The Pioneers opened their campaign at the Georgia College Bobcat Classic, going 1-2, and will visit Division I USC Upstate on Tuesday evening at 7pm before a weekend swing to conference in-state rivals Lincoln Memorial and Carson-Newman.
RECAPPING THE WEEK
Tusculum lost the first two matchups versus Georgia College and Lindenwood before a statement win over Limestone to wrap up the weekend.
Junior Gabby Gray led the offensive attack with 40 kills, including 20 against the Saints, hitting .241. Emiah Burrowes made an immediate impact in her collegiate debut tournament, collecting 29 kills. Four others racked up double-digit kills: Tatum Thornton (20), Carli Pigza (18), Taylor Blythe (16), and Aubrey Hawkins (15).
Defensively, Carly Sosnowski flew all over the court to scoop up 60 digs (5.00 per set). Gray had the second-highest with 35. Alyssa Rojas and Burrowes recorded 27 and 23 digs, respectively. Thornton was a menace at the net totaling 15 blocks (two solo, 13 assists).
The setting duties have been divided three ways between senior Rojas, freshman Elise Carmichael, and sophomore Catherine Clingan. Rojas has seen the most action and has the most assists with 63. Carmichael has been in one less set and has dished out 56 assists, while Clingan has collected 11.
USC Upstate is off to an 0-5 start, including a five-set loss to future SAC opponent Limestone. The Spartans are led offensively by McKenna Kirkpatrick with 39 kills, followed closely by Gloria Ikenegbu (33) and Emily Russell (31). Scout Hoffmeier has dished out 102 assists as the primary setter, while Mackenzie Marcum heads up the dig category with 69. The main blockers are Russell (15) and Ikenegbu (14).
The Pioneers and Spartans have played three times in their series history, with TU suffering a loss each time. The Spartans finished 13-19 overall last year and were fifth in the Big South Conference at 8-8.
After Tuesday's match in Spartanburg (S.C.), the Pioneers stay in Tennessee for the weekend, taking on Lincoln Memorial Friday at 7pm and Carson-Newman Saturday at 2pm.
Lincoln Memorial is also winless in its three matches and does not play again until they face the Pioneers. The 2018 Railsplitters advanced to the NCAA Southeast Regional before being swept by USC Aiken in the opening round. Rylee Storms and newcomer Yileen Ng He head up the offense with 21 kills apiece, while Emily Walter has 69 of the team's 84 assists. Sarah Jones leads the dig category with 33 and Ng He (12) and Storms (10) are the main defense at the net.
Lincoln Memorial has two SAC road matches this weekend after the faceoff with TU, at UVa-Wise Saturday and Lenoir-Rhyne Sunday. The teams have played one another since 1989, with the Railsplitters holding the series 34-26.
Carson-Newman is coming off of a 2018 season which saw them finish 16-13 overall, 11-9 in the conference, and fourth in the SAC standings. This season, the Eagles are 2-1 with wins over King (Tenn.) and Emmanuel (Ga.) and a loss to USC Aiken. The offense is guided by junior Megan Oldenburger with her 40 kills, alongside 46 digs. The Eagles also have multiple setters splitting playing time. Madison Rademacher and Elena Vasquez have 53 and 51 assists, respectively, to fuel the hitters. Senior Morgan Ballard manages the back line with 74 digs thus far. The net is patrolled by Kaina Roehrkasse and Katie Parnell, who have combined for more than half of the team's blocks with 30.
The Eagles play UVa-Wise on Friday night at home before hosting the Pioneers on Saturday. Tusculum holds the slight edge in the all-time series with Carson-Newman, dating back to 1986, with a record of 30-28.
Links to live stats and video for Tusculum University athletic events can be found through tusculumpioneers.com.