GATLINBURG, Tenn. --- Belmont Abbey College scored eight of the final nine goals in the second half to erase a deficit and defeat Tusculum University 17-11 in non-conference women's lacrosse action Wednesday afternoon at Rocky Top Sports World.
Jenna Niedzwiedzki and Kylie Eastman each scored four goals in the second half for the Crusaders (4-2), who won their fourth straight match by outscoring the Pioneers 12-5 in the second half after trailing 6-5 at intermission. Tusculum (2-2) led 10-9 on a goal by Juliette Cusano with 20:47 left, but was held scoreless for the final 12:14 by Belmont Abbey as the teams battled rainy and windy conditions on the turf.
Eastman had five goals and two assists to lead the Crusaders while Niedzwiedzki had five goals and an assist. Marin Felsoci had 11 draw controls for Belmont Abbey, which had a 22-8 advantage in draws over Tusculum in the match and outshot the Pioneers by a 38-26 margin, including 26-10 after halftime.
Cusano had four goals to lead the Pioneers and Tia Tuininga scored three times as Tusculum overcame a 4-1 deficit midway through the first half with four unanswered goals to take a 5-4 lead. Tusculum had four leads in the match but never by more than one goal as Belmont Abbey had three different runs of four unanswered goals in the contest.
The Pioneers opened the scoring just 1:06 into the first half on a free-position goal from Kylie Marek, but the Crusaders scored four times in a span of 11 minutes to go up 4-1 on a free-position goal from Alyssa Pearson. Tusculum came back as Cusano and Tuininga scored 1:26 apart to bring the Pioneers to within 4-3, and Eliza Ryan scored with 10:58 left in the first half to tie the game at 4-4. Another goal by Cusano gave Tusculum a 5-4 lead with 5:04 to play in the half, and Eastman and Tuininga exchanged goals in the final 3 1/2 minutes as Tusculum carried a 6-5 lead to break.
The Crusaders struck quickly in the second half as Niedzwiedzki equaled the game 6-6 just 14 seconds into the half. Two more goals from Niedzwiedzki sandwiched a goal by Tuininga as the Crusaders held an 8-7 lead with 27:14 left. A goal 29 seconds later from Eastman pushed the Crusaders in front 9-7, but the Pioneers came back as goals from Cusano and Emily Youngblood tied the score 9-9 with 22:39 left. Cusano gave the Pioneers their final lead of the day at 10-9 with 20:47 left, but Felsoci scored just 10 seconds later to re-tie the game at 10-10. Eastman, Mackenzie Kaderabek and Jenn Smith scored in a span of 1 minute, 41 seconds to push the Crusaders up 13-10 with 15:35 to go, with Marek closing the scoring for the Pioneers with 12:47 left before the Crusaders scored the last four goals, including two from Eastman.
Ryan led the Pioneer defense with four ground balls and three caused turnovers, while Youngblood and Cusano had three draw controls and two ground balls apiece. Cusano also had three caused turnovers for the Pioneers, who forced the Crusaders into 19 turnovers. Belmont Abbey was led on defense by Kaderabek and Riley D'Andrea, with three ground balls apiece.
Tusculum finished the match 16-for-23 on clear attempts, with Belmont Abbey going 9-for-13. Both teams scored five free-position goals, while Tusculum had a slight 18-16 edge in ground balls though Belmont Abbey had a 12-4 lead in the second half.
Pioneer keeper Kate Pipkin made 14 saves in goal for the Pioneers, while Elizabeth O'Hagan had eight stops for the Crusaders. Pipkin had nine saves in the second half and reached double figures in saves for the 13th time in her career.
Tusculum will return home to face Lee in a non-conference match on Wednesday, March 4 at 4 p.m. at Pioneer Field.