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Pioneers fall to defending SAC Champions

Cassie Born recorded 14 kills and 13 digs for the Pioneers in Friday's match with Anderson (photo by Chuck Williams)
Cassie Born recorded 14 kills and 13 digs for the Pioneers in Friday's match with Anderson (photo by Chuck Williams)

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Four different players recorded double-digit kills as the Anderson University women's volleyball team posted a 3-0 South Atlantic Conference victory at Tusculum University Friday night at Pioneer Arena.

The Trojans (23-3, 14-2 SAC) won the match by scores of 25-21, 25-22, 25-21 to complete the season-sweep over the Pioneers (3-16, 1-12 SAC).

Anderson finished the match hitting .250 with 52 kills and 16 errors in its 144 total attacks.  Tusculum posted its second highest hitting effort of the season as TU posted a .210 average with 36 kills in 124 attacks with only 10 errors (2nd fewest this year).

Despite the three-set sweep, the Pioneers hung tough with the defending conference champions forcing 23 ties to go along with eight lead changes on the evening.

Tusculum senior Cassie Born finished with a match-high 14 kills and a season-best .316 hitting percentage (14-2-38).  Born also accounted for 13 digs and four blocks.  TU teammate Aubrey Hawkins added seven kills, while Gabby Gray and Carli Pigza finished with six and five kills, respectively.  Tusculum setter Alyssa Rojas finished with a double-double of 36 assists and 15 digs, while senior libero Melissa Mazur accounted for a match-high 25 digs, including 11 in the opening set.

The Anderson duo of Regan Duty and Hailee Wilhelm each tallied a dozen kills.  Wilhelm posted a match-best .455 hitting percentage (12-2-22) while teammate Jaylyn Knight contributed 11 kills and 17 digs.  Liliana Kinder added 10 kills while setter Emily Conlin had 47 assists, 13 digs and two service aces in the victory for the Trojans.

Trailing 9-7 early in the first set, Tusculum scored three straight points to take a 10-9 lead thanks to a kill and a block assist from rookie Tatum Thornton.  The Trojans responded with a 4-0 run sparked by three kills from Duty as AU led 13-10.  The lead would swell to 22-18 following an Emily Conard ace.  But the Pioneers scored three straight including a kill each from Pigza and Hawkins as TU trimmed the deficit to 22-21.  But after an Anderson timeout, the visitors scored three straight, including a Megan DeVaux ace and kills from Worsham and Wilhelm as the Trojans prevailed 25-21. 

Anderson got a balanced offensive effort in the first frame with Duty, Kinder and Wilhelm all finishing with four kills each.

Tusculum bounced out to a 7-4 in the second set thank to a Cameron McAbee service ace and a Born kill.  Anderson would score three straight to tie the score at 7-7 to start a 9-3 run as the Trojans led 13-10.  A Conlin ace would later give AU its largest lead of the set 20-15.  But the Pioneers would answer with five consecutive points including kills from Hawkins and Born to tie the score at 20-20.  Anderson scored a pair of points before Tusculum would tie it again with back-to-back kills from Born for a 22-22 deadlock.  But the Trojans would close out the set with three straight including kills from Knight and Wilhelm down the stretch for a 25-22 Anderson win. 

The AU trio of Knight, Duty and Kinder tallied four kills apiece, while TU was paced by Born's seven kills and her .583 hitting percentage.  Tusculum ended up out-hitting Anderson in the second frame finishing with a .289 hitting percentage while AU posted a .277 attack percentage.

The third set was another back-and-forth frame with eight ties and three lead changes.  Anderson tooked the early lead at 11-9 before the Pioneers came up with a 6-1 spurt to take its largest lead of the match at 15-12. The run was sparked by two kills from Born and a McAbee ace.  The Trojans scored three in a row to tie the set at 15-15 before TU scored two straight of its own to lead 17-15.  The Pioneers would take a 19-17 lead following a Gray kill, but a 5-0 Anderson run to would push the visitors ahead 22-19. The run would extend to 8-2 after three kills from Duty including one on match-point as AU closed out the night with a 25-21 decision in the third.

Anderson edged the Pioneers 70-67 in digs and 6-3 in service aces.  Tusculum dominated on the block finishing the night with eight team blocks to the Trojans one.

Tusculum will host Newberry College on Saturday at 2 p.m.  TU will be looking to avenge last month's 3-2 marathon loss to the Wolves.  Anderson will travel to Lincoln Memorial University on Saturday to close out its Tennessee weekend swing.

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