GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum University women's volleyball team will finish its five-match conference road swing with out-of-state opponents. The Pioneers will travel to UVa-Wise, Mars Hill, and Lenoir-Rhyne throughout the week. The Cavaliers, Tuesday's opponent, sit at the bottom of the SAC standings, having lost all 13 conference matches thus far. Mars Hill, Friday's destination, and Lenoir-Rhyne, Saturday's foe, are just ahead of the Pioneers in a tie for fifth in the SAC.
RECAPPING THE WEEK
The Black and Orange are currently 3-6 in away matches, but can bring that to .500 with a dominant week. Tusculum split the weekend in North Carolina with a four-set loss at Queens and five-set thrilling win at Catawba.
Five Pioneers had career nights in the victory over the Indians. Gabby Gray tied her career-high 23 kills, hitting at a .358 percentage. She added 13 digs to earn a double-double as well. Gracee Peters demolished her previous highs with 15 kills and 13 digs. Carly Sosnowski dished out nine assists for her personal-high mark, while Catherine Clingan's seven aces is tied second in TU history for a five-set match. Sydney Byrd surpassed her previous best with five kills.
All seven Pioneers that recorded a kill reached double-figures, led by Gray with 32. Additionally, Aubrey Hawkins finished with 18 kills, while Tatum Thornton, Emiah Burrowes, and Peters collected 15. Carli Pigza and Byrd collected 11 kills on the week. At the service line, Clingan led the way with eight aces and Elise Carmichael and Sosnowski finished with three. Pigza collected a pair and Gray rounded out the category with one of her own.
Defensively, Sosnowski led the team with 47 digs, while Gray was next up with 33. At the net, Tatum Thornton is credited with five block assists, with Hawkins and Carli Pigza just behind at four. Gray also totaled four block but it included one solo and three assists.
The setting duties were shared by Carmichael and Clingan, collecting a combined 96 of 110 assists on the weekend. The sophomore Clingan dished out 49 assists, while the freshman contributed 47. Sosnowski is credited with 12, including a career-high nine at Catawba.
Tusculum ranks third in the SAC in assists (800) and fourth in assists per set (11.94), attacks per set (37.27), and kills (838). The Pioneers are also in the top half of the conference in eight other statistical categories, including aces per set, blocks per set, kills per set, service aces, hitting percentage, and opponent hitting percentage. Individually, Clingan ranks second in the SAC and 14th in Division II in aces per set, behind only the national leader from Wingate. Taylor Blythe leads the conference and is 20th across the division in hitting percentage at .378. Sosnowski is third in the SAC averaging 4.97 digs per set. Gray and Burrowes are back-to-back in kills at fourth and fifth with 195 and 193, respectively.
UVa-Wise (1-16, 0-13 SAC) hosts the Pioneers on Tuesday before traveling to Lenoir-Rhyne and Mars Hill for the weekend. Ciara Kain heads up the Cavalier attack with 149 kills, with Brooke Abbott nearing the triple-digit precipice with 99 kills. Makayla Ledford is the leading setter with 213 assists, followed by Zoe Avery (160) and Morgan Milligan (138). Milligan tops the service ace category with 19 and leads in digs with 244. Abbott is the top blocker with 32 total and Abigail Byington has 20 to her credit. Across the SAC, Cavaliers are last in 11 of the 15 NCAA statistical categories.
Since the two teams first met in 1993, the Pioneers have dominated the series 22-1, including this season's sweep. The Cavaliers will also face the same opponents as Tusculum during the weekend, in reverse order.
Mars Hill (10-9, 7-5 SAC) plays host to Lenoir-Rhyne on Tuesday before hosting two weekend conference matches. Sarah Goddard and Sally Anne Johnson lead the offense with 188 and 185 kills, respectively. The setting duo of Sara Pasour and Jordan Schmucker have dished out a combined 659 assists with Pasour aiding on five more kills. She also leads the Lions in service aces with 21. Libero Ully Martins has scooped up a conference-high 396 digs thus far in the season, averaging nearly six per set to leads the SAC (12th nationally). At the net, Johnson heads up the block category, totaling 56, including 21 solo. The Lions lead the nation in digs per set, averaging 21.13, and are second in attacks per set (41.32). Mars Hill also ranks first in the SAC in digs and attacks.
The Lions host Lenoir-Rhyne on Tuesday in a Dig Pink match before hosting the Pioneers on Friday. Since the two teams first started playing one another in 1986 as one of the longest running series in program history, Tusculum leads the series 37-20 after the Lions took the season's previous meeting in a five-set heartbreaker inside Pioneer Arena.
Lenoir-Rhyne (12-8, 7-5 SAC) goes to Mars Hill on Tuesday before UVa-Wise and Tusculum for the weekend. Taylor Prall has more kills than her next three teammates combined with a conference-leading 259, averaging 3.75 per set. Assists between Helen Hamilton and Mackenzie Hulsey are nearly even at 278 and 276, respectively. Ashley Hawkins leads at the service line with 26 aces, as well as in the back row with 314 digs. Alexis Ivey is the leading blocker, collecting 67 total (13 solo, 54 assists). Lenoir-Rhyne is second in the SAC in digs, attacks, and total blocks, while being third in blocks per set and digs per set. Prall also leads the conference in attacks and is second in attacks per set, kills per set, and points per set. Ivey is second across the SAC in blocks per set, good for 15th in Division II, and third in total blocks.
The Bears play at Mars Hill on Tuesday night in a Dig Pink match before hosting UVa-Wise on Friday and the Pioneers Saturday. Since the two teams' first meeting in 1996, the Black and Orange leads the series 28-21 after Tusculum swept the season's previous meeting.
Links to live stats and video for Tusculum University athletic events can be found through tusculumpioneers.com.