Pioneers tagged for fifth in SAC preseason poll, Cusano and Sanders earn All-Conference recognition

Pioneers tagged for fifth in SAC preseason poll, Cusano and Sanders earn All-Conference recognition

ROCK HILL, S.C. --- The South Atlantic Conference has announced its preseason coaches poll and preseason All-Conference teams for women's lacrosse.

Tusculum University was picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll, and two members of the team were selected preseason second-team All-Conference. Earning the honor were junior midfielder Juliette Cusano and junior defender Hailey Sanders.

The Pioneers finished in a tie for fourth place in the regular season with a 4-4 league record, and completed the season with a 6-11 overall mark. Tusculum was the fifth seed in the SAC Championship tournament and was eliminated by Wingate in the first round by a score of 19-15.

Interim head coach Joelle-Sara Prata will have last year's top two goal scorers back in the lineup in Cusano and senior Rachel Holmes, with six starters in all back from last year's squad.

Cusano led the Pioneers with 42 goals last season, ranking her 11th in the SAC as she earned second-team All-Conference honors following the season. She scored at least one goal in all 15 games in which she played, including back-to-back five-goal games against Newberry and Coker. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida native led the Pioneers with 12 free-position goals and also ranked second on the team in draw controls (57), caused turnovers (20) and ground balls (30).

In two seasons with the Pioneers, Cusano has scored 53 goals and dished out 10 assists for 63 points which ranks her seventh in program history in goals and eighth in points. Cusano is third in program history with 93 draw controls and ranks sixth with 28 caused turnovers.

Sanders appeared in 16 games for the Pioneers last season, making 13 starts, and collected 15 ground balls and had 17 draw controls. Sanders recorded six caused turnovers and also scored a pair of goals, in wins against Mars Hill and Newberry. The native of Weddington, North Carolina had four draw controls against both Queens and Mars Hill, and registered a season-high three ground balls against Wingate.

Sanders has made 26 appearances and 14 starts in two seasons at Tusculum, and has 17 ground balls, 18 draw controls and seven caused turnovers during that time.

Queens and Lenoir-Rhyne finished in a tie for the number-one slot in the preseason poll. The Royals lost to the Bears 12-11 in their regular-season meeting for Queens' first-ever conference loss, but in the SAC Championship match Queens returned the favor with a 13-9 victory for their fifth straight tournament title. Both teams finished with 68 points in the poll, but Queens had five first-place votes to four for Lenoir-Rhyne.

Wingate (55 points), Catawba (53), Tusculum (43) and Lincoln Memorial (38) finish out the top six positions in the poll, followed by Coker (31 points), Mars Hill (22) and Newberry (18).

Tusculum opens its 2019 season against Shorter on Wednesday, Feb. 6 at 3 p.m. at Pioneer Field.

2019 SAC Women's Lacrosse Preseason Poll


School (1st)



Queens (5)



Lenoir-Rhyne (4)












Lincoln Memorial






Mars Hill






2019 SAC Women's Lacrosse Preseason All-Conference
First Team
A – Faith Kent, Coker
A – Hanna Scott, Queens
A – Gabby Sousa, Lenoir-Rhyne
A – Kendall Wells, Wingate
MF – Rachel Elmore, Lenoir-Rhyne
MF – Amara Moss, Lincoln Memorial
MF – Katie Wardle, Queens
MF – Nicole Hunt, Catawba
D – Cammy Case, Queens
D – Zoe Zervos, Lincoln Memorial
D – Sierra Street, Wingate
D – Madison Prkna, Lenoir-Rhyne
GK – Chase Brokaw, Queens 

Second Team
A – Cathleen Gaffney, Lenoir-Rhyne
A – Kennedy Buechner, Lincoln Memorial
A – Gianna Pezzulo, Catawba
A – Katie Barth, Catawba
MF – Casey Kelly, Lincoln Memorial
MF – Rachel Dillon, Newberry
MF – Juliette Cusano, Tusculum
MF – Allison Conn, Queens
D – Maggie Fabean, Queens
D – Cassie Lafler, Lenoir-Rhyne
D – Adara Garner, Newberry
D – Hailey Sanders, Tusculum
GK – Arion Pierre, Wingate