GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- A new era begins in the rich history of Tusculum University as the women's beach volleyball team opens competition this weekend at the Principia College Beach Bash Tournament in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Tusculum will play four matches this weekend beginning with the program's inaugural contest against host Principia at 2 p.m. on Friday. TU will face Morehead State University later on Friday. Saturday's schedule includes match-ups against in-state foe Carson-Newman University (1 p.m.) and close out the weekend against Stevenson University (4 p.m.).
The Pioneers and head coach Ashton Hippenstiel are primed for an 18-match schedule in Tusculum's inaugural year of competition and the excitement level is at an all-time high.
"Our team has been working very hard in getting ready for our first season and it is finally here," said Hippenstiel. "We are so excited to finally compete in our first season."
SCOUTING THE PIONEERS
Though some of the Pioneers are rookies in the sand, several Tusculum players have enjoyed award-winning careers indoors including All-American Melissa Mazur. The Chicago, Illinois senior recorded 2,485 career digs as the TU libero over the past four years, which are the second-most in program history. Mazur is an established beach volleyball player, playing in numerous sand tournaments over the past several summers.
The 2019 inaugural roster includes Danika Chaney, Catherine Clingan, Lydia Collins, Haley Davis, Gabby Gray, Skyellar Hall, Hanna Johnson, Marissa Morgan, Destiny Ramsey, Grace Roe, Lana Vujosevic, Katelyn Weems and Jordan Zaleski.
ABOUT BEACH VOLLEYBALL
There are more than 60 NCAA varsity beach volleyball programs across the nation, with several schools adding the sport this season as well as in the near future.
A match is two sets to 21 points with a 15-point third set if needed, and all sets are rally scoring. Each school divides its roster into five teams of two players each (10 total players will compete for each school in a match), and the winner is the school that captures three of the five matches between the two-player teams.
Tusculum will return to action in two weeks (Mar. 15-16) at the Governors' Challenge in Clarksville, Tennessee as the Pioneers take on host Austin Peay, Southern Mississippi and Jacksonville State University.
TU travels to Conway, South Carolina for a doubleheader at Coastal Carolina University on Mar. 22, before traveling to Wilmington, North Carolina for four matches from Mar. 23-24 in rematches against Morehead State and Carson-Newman. TU will also face UNC Wilmington as well as Florida Gulf Coast University.
The Pioneers return closer to home Mar. 30-31 for the Carson-Newman Tournament in Jefferson City. TU will play two matches each against the host Eagles and Eastern Kentucky University.
Tusculum will host in-state foe Lincoln Memorial on Apr. 3 for the Pioneers' first-ever home match.
The season will culminate with the AVCA Small College Championships in Tavares, Florida on Apr. 19-20.