GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University women's soccer team kicks off its 2018 season this weekend by hosting the Pioneer Classic.
Pioneer Classic page - links to live stats and video
The two-day, four-team classic will be played Friday and Sunday at Pioneer Field. In addition to Tusculum, participants will be Nova Southeastern and Palm Beach Atlantic out of the Sunshine State Conference, and the University of Alabama Huntsville out of the Gulf South Conference.
Action will begin at 2:30 Friday afternoon as Alabama Huntsville faces Palm Beach Atlantic, followed by Tusculum against Nova Southeastern at 5 p.m. On Sunday, Nova Southeastern will play Alabama Huntsville at 10 a.m., with Tusculum to square off with Palm Beach Atlantic at 12:30 p.m.
Head coach Mike Joy welcomes back eight starters from last year's team that finished 10-7-1 overall and advanced to the semifinals of the South Atlantic Conference Championship tournament. Joy is beginning his 22nd season with the Pioneers, and his 261 victories at Tusculum include the most wins by a SAC coach in all matches (238) and in conference matches (101).
Leading scorer Jordan Newby was among four Pioneers named second-team preseason All-SAC after scoring a team-high six goals last year. Fellow senior Nicole McMillen and sophomore Kenzie Ellenburg were also named preseason All-Conference on defense, as was junior midfielder Sonja Ballmert who had a team-high 14 points on five goals and four assists.
Senior goalkeeper Hannah Graham recorded an 8-6-1 record a year ago and a 1.19 goals against average, highlighted by six shutouts in 14 starts. Senior forward Carly Mill (two goals) and sophomore midfielder Brooke Radcliffe (three goals) also return after contributing in a starting role a year ago.
Nova Southeastern, ranked 23rd in the United Soccer Coaches Division II preseason poll, was Sunshine State Conference champions last season with an 8-1-1 league record, and advanced to the NCAA second round before finishing the year at 12-4-2. The Sharks have won two of the three all-time meetings with the Pioneers, including a 3-0 win in their only previous visit to Greeneville in the 2008 season opener.
Palm Beach Atlantic endured a series of hurricane-related cancellations last year, including what would have been the first-ever meeting with Tusculum at the Bobcat Classic at Georgia College. The Sailfish finished with a 3-9-1 overall record in 2017 and placed 11th in the SSC with a 2-7-1 record.
Alabama Huntsville finished 6-11 last season and went 4-10 in the Gulf South Conference, with one of their victories coming over Tusculum by a score of 3-1 in their second game of the year. The teams will not play this weekend, but the Pioneers do have a 4-2 edge in the all-time series with the Chargers.
Admission to all Tusculum home women's soccer matches is free. All four matches will have streaming video and live statistics available through TusculumPioneers.com.