GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University women's lacrosse team is eager to begin the 2020 season, which gets underway Wednesday, Feb. 12 at the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky.
The Pioneers are coming off a 4-12 season in 2019, a year that saw Joelle-Sara Prata elevated to interim coach in the fall and earn the permanent head coach job early in the season. With a full year under her belt, Prata has brought in six freshmen and a transfer student to join a group of 13 returning players, which includes nine starters.
Tusculum finished 2-6 in the South Atlantic Conference a year ago, and will play nine league games this year with the addition of UVa-Wise to the conference.
Senior Bailey Lowery (Seymour, Tenn.) started all 16 matches last year and ranked eighth in the SAC with 26 assists, the fifth-most in a single season in program history. Lowery dished out seven assists against Newberry, tied for the second-most in a game in school history, and enters her senior season with 12 goals and 31 assists for 43 points in 43 career matches.
Junior Megann McKinney (Waxhaw, N.C.) missed all of the 2019 season due to injury, and will look to return to the form of her freshman year when she collected 16 goals and five assists for 21 points in 15 matches. Sophomore Jessica Spiegel (Apopka, Fla.) started 12 matches last season and had three goals and nine assists along with 11 ground balls for the Pioneers.
Depth will be provided by junior Bethany Thomas (Greenville, S.C.), who played in 15 matches last season, and sophomore Harley Smith (Greeneville, Tenn.), who appeared in 12 matches last season. Freshman Tia Tuininga (Langley, B.C.) joins the Pioneers after twice earning MVP honors in lacrosse while at Langley Christian High School.
Senior Juliette Cusano (Davie, Fla.) is a preseason All-SAC second-team selection after earning second-team All-Conference honors each of the last two seasons. Cusano set a program single-season record with 61 goals in 2019 and ranked ninth in the conference with 69 points. She was seventh in the conference with 72 draw controls and ranked second with 23 free-position goals, and brings a streak of 33 consecutive games with a goal into her senior season. Cusano ranks third in career goals at Tusculum (114), fourth in points (132), second in draw controls (165), fourth in caused turnovers (42) and sixth in ground balls (78).
Senior Brittany Lowery (Seymour, Tenn.) was third on the team with 26 goals and 35 points last season, ranked third with 38 draw controls and finished fourth on the team in both ground balls (28) and caused turnovers (12). Fellow senior Eliza Ryan (Old Bridge, N.J.) was fifth on the team with 14 goals last season and third in ground balls with 32, giving her 26 goals and 58 ground balls in 48 career games.
Sophomore Emily Youngblood (Austin, Texas) started all 16 games as a freshman and was fourth on the team in goals (17) and fifth in points with 29. Her 42 draw controls were second on the team, while she tied for fifth with 11 caused turnovers and ranked sixth in ground balls (23).
Junior Briana Minter (Harrisburg, Pa.) joins the program after two seasons at St. Andrews University, where she scored 31 goals and led the team with 40 ground balls last season. In two years, Minter had 42 goals in 29 games along with 59 ground balls, 30 caused turnovers and 45 draw controls. Freshman Kylie Marek (Plantation, Fla.) also joins the program out of American Heritage School, where she was All-District and earned MVP honors.
Senior Hailey Sanders (Weddington, N.C.) was second-team preseason All-SAC last season and finished the year with 23 ground balls, while tying for the team lead with 13 caused turnovers. In 40 career games (28 starts), Sanders has 40 ground balls and 21 caused turnovers for the Pioneers.
Senior Linden Perkins (Knoxville, Tenn.) started all 16 games last year and had 13 caused turnovers to tie Sanders for the team lead, and also picked up 16 ground balls. Perkins has 21 ground balls and 16 caused turnovers in 26 games across three seasons with Tusculum.
Freshmen Zoe Whitlow (Osceola, Ind.), Leighann Yudin (Stuart, Fla.) and Kamryn McNeil (Alpharetta, Ga.) all join the Tusculum program this season. Whitlow was Defensive Player of the Year at Penn High School, Yudin was honorable mention All-Conference at Martin County High School, and McNeil lettered four years at Centennial High School.
Junior Kate Pipkin (Annapolis, Md.) ranks second in program history in saves (230), save percentage (.371) and wins (7). She started 14 games last season and set a school single-season record with 133 saves, good for seventh in the conference. Pipkin had a season-high 15 saves against UVa-Wise and recorded 10 or more saves six times last season.
Sophomore Taylor Floyd (Soddy Daisy, Tenn.) played in four games as a freshman and made two starts, finishing with 14 saves in her first start against Walsh. Freshman Caroline Monroe (Huntersville, N.C.) set school career records for saves (426) and save percentage (.517) while earning All-Conference honors at William A. Hough High School.
The Pioneers will open their season at Cumberlands on Wednesday, Feb. 12 for their first-ever meeting with the Patriots, and will play their home opener on Saturday, Feb. 15 at Pioneer Field against Tennessee Wesleyan. Tusculum will open its SAC schedule on Saturday, March 7 at Newberry and will conclude their nine-game league slate on Saturday, April 18 against visiting Wingate.