WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. --- Tusculum University nearly completed a second rally, but fell one goal shy as the University of the Cumberlands held on for a 15-14 victory in non-conference women's lacrosse action Wednesday night.
The Pioneers (0-1) trailed 6-0 after 6 1/2 minutes and 10-4 late in the first half, but scored six unanswered goals of their own to tie the game at 10-10 with 17:39 remaining. The Patriots (1-0), ranked third in the NAIA preseason poll, built their lead to 15-11 with just over five minutes left, and the teams had to wait out a 30-minute weather delay before the Pioneers cut the margin to 15-14 with 27 seconds left.
Tusculum had a chance to tie the game on a free-position shot with three seconds left, but Patriots keeper Emily Crump made the last of her 13 saves to preserve the win for Cumberlands. Tusculum was outshot 36-29 by Cumberlands and went 6-for-13 on free-position shots, but the Patriots committed 24 turnovers to 17 by the Pioneers.
Freshman Tia Tuininga had a memorable debut for the Pioneers with five goals on six shots, with Megann McKinney adding two goals and two assists. Juliette Cusano had two goals, three ground balls, three caused turnovers and three draw controls for the Pioneers, with two goals from freshman Kylie Marek. Eliza Ryan, Emily Youngblood and Brittany Lowery all scored goals for the Pioneers, with Ryan adding five ground balls and three caused turnovers and Youngblood contributing three draw controls to share the team lead with Cusano and Kamryn McNeil.
Samantha Tullar led the Patriots with five goals while Emily Heim had four goals and four assists and Jaclyn Berry had three goals and an assist. Bella Ricchiazzi had two goals and three assists for the Patriots, who received a match-high eight draw controls from Heim and three caused turnovers from Elizabeth Fladung.
Cumberlands scored four goals in the first 1 minute, 29 seconds and took a 6-0 lead with 23:37 left in the first half on Tullar's third goal of the evening. Youngblood put the Pioneers on the board with 15:17 left in the first half, with goals from Tuininga, McKinney and Ryan cutting the margin to 8-4 with 10:38 to go in the half. Tusculum fell behind 10-4 with 3:24 remaining in the half, but Lowery scored with 13 seconds left to bring the Pioneers within 10-5 at intermission.
In the second half, Tuininga scored twice in the first seven minutes, with goals from Cusano, McKinney and Marek tying the game at 10-10 with 17:39 to play. However, the Pioneers would score just once over the next 14 minutes as the Patriots built their lead to 15-11 with 5:06 left on a goal from Ricchiazzi. Moments after Tuininga scored to pull Tusculum within 15-12 with 3:17 left, a lightning delay would pause action for 30 minutes. When the teams returned, Tuininga scored with 2:27 left to make it a 15-13 game. Cusano scored on a free position with 27 seconds left to cut the margin to 15-14 and won the subsequent draw to give the Pioneers a final chance. A foul with just over three seconds left set up Tusculum for the tying shot, but Crump knocked the ball aside as time ran out.
On defense, Hailey Sanders led the Pioneers with three ground balls while Trinity Brown had three ground balls for the Patriots. Cumberlands led 17-14 in draws and had a slim 21-20 advantage in ground balls over Tusculum in the match.
Pioneer keeper Kate Pipkin finished the evening with seven saves in goal, while Crump made nine of her 13 saves in the second half as Tusculum put 18 shots on goal after halftime.
Tusculum will play its home opener on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Pioneer Field against Tennessee Wesleyan. The Bulldogs are ranked 10th in the NAIA preseason poll and will be playing their season opener after finishing with an 8-8 record last season.