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Pioneers prepare for season opener on Saturday

Pioneers prepare for season opener on Saturday

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University women's soccer team is gearing up for the start of the 2019 season, which begins Saturday, Sept. 7 at Bellarmine.

The Pioneers return six starters from last year's team which finished 8-7-3 overall and in sixth place in the South Atlantic Conference with a 5-3-2 record. Head coach Mike Joy begins his 28th season as a collegiate coach ranked third among active D2 coaches and fifth all-time with 355 wins. Joy is the winningest coach in South Atlantic Conference history, and has 269 victories at Tusculum entering his 23rd season with the Pioneers.

Joy will rely on a group of newcomers following the loss of a large senior class to graduation, and will test the squad immediately with nine consecutive road matches to begin the regular season.

"You don't know what you have until you play your first game. We are very young on defense, but defense wins championships," said Joy. "We are going to be better on the attack both in speed and in pace, and it says a lot about the players we have brought in."

FORWARDS
Junior Elise Gallo scored two goals and had one assist for five points in 14 matches for the Pioneers last season. The native of Davidson, N.C. was tied for third on the team with 14 shots on goal and has three goals in 26 career contests.

A pair of incoming freshmen bring strong prep credentials to the Pioneer lineup -- Tina Haig (Fort Washington, Pa.) and Brianna Garcia (Acworth, Ga.). Haig set a school record with 21 goals as a senior at Upper Dublin High School and was a two-time first-team All-Conference selection, while Garcia was a team MVP and All-Region selection at Etowah High School.

Junior Jamila Thombs will enter the Pioneer lineup following two seasons at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan. Thombs, whose sister, Jenique, played 50 career matches at Tusculum from 2010 to 2014, scored 21 goals during her sophomore seasons at Schoolcraft.

Senior Chelsea Sheerin (Strabane, Northern Ireland) and junior Indee Jo Swanson (Lenoir, N.C.) will bring depth up top for the Pioneers, along with freshman Brooke Morgan (Greeneville, Tenn.), a graduate of nearby Chuckey-Doak High School.

MIDFIELDERS
The Pioneers will play the 2019 season without leading scorer and All-Conference honoree Sonja Ballmert, who suffered a knee injury during spring practice. Ballmert was second-team All-SAC last year after scoring four goals and four assists and leading the Pioneers with 35 shots.

Ready to step in and lead the Pioneers in the midfield are fifth-year senior Ellie Tomassoni, along with junior Kate Guildford and sophomore Kaitlyn Watson.

Tomassoni bounced back after missing the 2017 season and played in 16 matches for the Pioneers, scoring a goal in the season finale against Coker. The Mason, Ohio native has played 53 career games for the Pioneers, scoring three times.

Guildford was the team Most Valuable Player for the Pioneers in 2018 after starting 15 matches and scoring three goals (all game-winners). One of her goals came in overtime at Lincoln Memorial and gave the Pioneers a 1-0 victory over the eventual SAC Tournament champions. A native of Cromwell, New Zealand, Guildford has six goals and three assists for 15 points in 34 career contests.

Watson slides back to a midfield position after starting all 18 matches at forward as a freshman. The Murfreesboro, Tennessee product scored two goals and two assists and was fourth on the team with 23 shots attempted as a freshman. Both of her goals were game-winners, in victories over Shaw and Coker.

Another fifth-year senior, Carly Culler, is back after missing most of the 2018 season due to injury. The native of Mebane, North Carolina, has a goal and five assists in 41 career matches for the Pioneers, all off the bench.

More depth in the midfield comes from junior Darby Johnson (Arlington, Texas), who has appeared in 12 career matches, along with sophomore Ellie Wray (Charlottesville, Va.). Sophomore Alyssa Sayne (Friendsville, Tenn.) joins the program this season along with freshmen Zoe Horgan (Hobart, Tasmania), Cori Klepser (Mount Juliet, Tenn.), Bailey Bylotas (Fort Worth, Texas) and Peiton Bledsoe (Maryville, Tenn.).

DEFENSE
Despite losing three senior starters to graduation, the Pioneers have created depth on the back line with the movement of a pair of returning players.

Junior Kenzie Ellenburg is the Pioneers' lone preseason All-SAC selection, taking second-team honors after being an honorable mention All-Conference pick a year ago. Ellenburg started all 18 matches and ranked second on the team with 1,595 minutes played, helping the team earn four shutouts while allowing just 13 goals in 10 league games. The Mosheim, Tennessee product and Greeneville High School graduate is a two-year starter for the Pioneers, having appeared in 34 contests with 31 starts.

Junior Brooke Radcliffe moves to outside back after starting 34 matches at midfield over her first two years. Radcliffe, who hails from Mason, Ohio, has posted identical scoring totals of three goals and two assists in each of her first two years with the Pioneers. Sophomore Chayse Stonebraker (Chandler, Texas) appeared in 13 matches for the Pioneers and started six as a freshman, and sophomore Katlyn Jones (Chuckey, Tenn.) saw brief action in her rookie season after winning two state championships at Greeneville High School.

Senior Maddie Vossen (Kings Mill, Ohio) has made 45 appearances over three years on defense for the Pioneers, making 11 starts, and junior Yvette Raaijen (Almere, The Netherlands) has played 36 matches and started 21 in two years. Raaijen scored on a penalty kick for her first career goal in a 2-1 win over 12th-ranked Carson-Newman.

Senior Kirsten Pappas (Knoxville, Tenn.) and sophomore Halea Murphy (Mosheim, Tenn.) return to the Tusculum lineup and are joined by five freshman on defense -- Arisa Timoll (Courtice, Ontario), Sydney Rose (Fairfield, Ohio), Ashley Waggoner (Little Elm, Texas), Nora Everett (Loudon, Tenn.) and Kelsie Giannelli (Oak Ridge, Tenn.).

GOALKEEPERS
Junior Cecilie Ting Mortensen transferred to Tusculum from LSU Alexandria, where she was two-time All-Conference and compiled a 20-10-6 record with 15 shutouts. The Vejle, Denmark native was the Red River Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year as a freshman after compiling a 0.69 goals against average, and followed up last season with a 1.25 goals against average and a .826 save percentage to lead her team to its first-ever RRAC championship appearance.

Senior Danielle Breen has made four appearance in three seasons at Tusculum, with two starts, and has a 2-1-0 record with a 2.02 goals against average in just over 267 minutes of action. The Sicklerville, New Jersey native has 13 career saves and earned victories over Tennessee Wesleyan and Catawba during her sophomore season.

Freshman T.T. Addison (Mooresburg, Tenn.) joins the program after earning All-Region and All-District honors at Cherokee High School, where she made 280 career saves.

SCHEDULE
Tusculum will be on the road for nine straight matches in six different states (Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina) before playing their home opener against Anderson on Sunday, Oct. 6 at Pioneer Field. Tusculum will play six of its final eight contests at home, capped by a matchup with Carson-Newman to close the regular season on Wednesday, Nov. 6.

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"TUSCULUM WILL PREPARE STUDENT-ATHLETES TO BECOME PRINCIPLED LEADERS WHO ARE CONTRIBUTING CITIZENS AND CHAMPIONS IN LIFE BY INSTILLING THE HIGHEST VALUES OF CHARACTER, INTEGRITY, AND SPORTSMANSHIP."

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