HICKORY, N.C. --- The Tusculum University women's volleyball team bounced back for a come-from-behind victory over Lenoir-Rhyne on Saturday, upsetting the Bears in five sets. The Black and Orange move to 11-10 (9-7 SAC) on the season to end a five-game road trip.
The Pioneers, sparked by career nights from freshmen Emiah Burrowes and Elise Carmichael, battled to the finish against the Bears (14-9, 9-6 SAC) to sweep the season series over Lenoir-Rhyne. Tusculum won by scores of 18-25, 25-21, 25-21, 23-25, 16-14.
Tusculum posted a .288 hitting percentage (second-highest of the season) as TU finished with 66 kills, 19 attack errors, and 163 attempts. Lenoir-Rhyne tallied a .230 attack percentage with 62 kills, 22 errors and 174 attempts. The Bears finished the night with 13 service aces to go along with 13 total team blocks and 70 digs. The Pioneers had seven aces with 10 total blocks and 75 digs. Tusculum's total kills are third highest on the season, while the block total is tied-second on the year.
Burrowes set a new career-high in kills, knocking down 22 attempts, on a .306 tear. Carmichael created new personal marks with 37 assists and 11 digs with her double-double. Tatum Thornton was credited with seven total blocks (one solo, six assists), a new season-best. Carli Pigza's 11 kills tied her season-high number, while Carly Sosnowski was two digs off of her career-best digs with 27.
Additionally, Gray registered 17 kills on a .359 clip and Thornton's six kills were on a .455 percentage. Catherine Clingan handed out 21 assists as well. Taylor Blythe collected a two service aces at the line, joined by Gray, Carmichael, Clingan, and Jordan Zaleski with one each. Gray also tallied 16 digs to complete her double-double. At the net, Pigza recorded five total blocks (one solo, four assists), followed by Blythe with three block assists.
Taylor Prall led the Bears with 19 kills and Colette Romp added 10 kills at a .333 clip. Helen Hamilton dished out a team-high 32 assists, while Prall and Ashley Hawkins served five and four aces, respectively. From the back row, Hawkins scooped up 24 digs, along with Rachel Bewick's 15 and Prall's 12. Alexis Ivey was a force at the net, totaling 10 blocks (two solo, eight assists).
A Clingan ace gave the Pioneers a 7-4 lead before Lenoir-Rhyne called a timeout. The Bears proceeded to claim the next eight points, forcing a TU timeout. The match was tied up again at 16 until the home team won nine of the final 11 points to clinch the first set 25-18.
Down 16-13 in set two, a Blythe kill sparked an 8-1 spurt from the Pioneers and capped off by an ace from the same right hand. The Bears closed the gap to 22-21 but Tusculum took the final three points. Off assists from Carmichael, Gray and Pigza knocked down a kill and a block from Pigza and Thornton closed it out.
Set three also went the way of the Pioneers, starting with a kill from Gray. Tusculum led 4-1, but the Bears scored four straight to take the lead. Filled with ties and lead changes, the visitors gained some separation at the 19-17 mark. Five consecutive points, including a kill from Aubrey Hawkins, an ace from Carmichael and a solo block from Pigza, gave the Pioneers some momentum. Kills from Gray and Burrowes finished the frame.
Neither team relented in the nail-biting fourth set. Once again, the Pioneers shot out to a 4-1 lead before the Bears stormed back to tie the frame at four. Tusculum claimed seven of the next eight points to hold an 11-5 advantage. Lenoir-Rhyne rattled off eight straight with three kills coming from Emily Jordan. Burrowes stopped the skid and the teams traded points until the Bears garnered a 23-20 lead. The Pioneers managed three more points, while the Bears needed just two to tie the match at two sets apiece.
Lenoir-Rhyne jumped out to a 13-10 lead before the Tusculum comeback was made. A service error gave the control back to the Pioneers, followed by consecutive kills from Burrowes to tie the final set at 13. Blythe added a key kill to send the advantage to Tusculum. Lenoir-Rhyne tied the set at 14 thanks to a kill from Prall, but she gave it back to Tusculum on a service error. Burrowes closed out the career night with a kill to finalize the comeback.
Tusculum comes home to Pioneer Arena for three matches next week, starting on Tuesday the 29th with a non-conference scrum against in-state foe King.