SAVANNAH, Ga. – Fourth-seeded Tusculum knocked off top-seeded Armstrong Atlantic 3-1 on Friday as the Pioneers punched their ticket to the third round.
Tusculum (24-7) won the match by scores of 24-26, 25-23, 29-27, 25-20 as the Pioneers advanced to the Round of 16 for the first time in program history.
The Pioneers (24-7) will play for its first berth into the quarterfinals on Saturday. Armstrong (33-6) saw its season come to a close in the second round for the third time in the last four seasons.
Tusculum sophomore Megan Hasse led the way for the Pioneers with 16 kills, nine digs and three service aces. Junior Kassie Voelker added seven kills, three digs and a match-high nine blocks (one solo, eight assists), while senior Alyssa Raterman and Danae Stauffer contributed 12 and 11 digs, respectively.
Junior setter Ashley Sarmiento finished with 27 assists, 15 digs, four kills, three blocks and hit .500 on the night. Freshman Hannah Berling contributed 20 assists, four digs and two aces. Two-time All-American libero Caitlyn Dean led all players with 24 of Tusculum’s 67 digs.
Tusculum led throughout a majority of the opening set. Armstrong closed the gap and took its first lead of the night at 23-22 thanks to an Amanda Jones kill. The two teams traded side-outs, until Jones posted a kill and TC was whistled for a ball handling error on set point as the Pirates won 26-24.
The second set mirrored the previous frame as TC led for most of the early part of the set, only to see Armstrong score three consecutive points to take a 15-13 lead following back-to-back TC ball handling errors. The lead bounced back and fourth before AASU moved in front 23-21 following a TC attack error. But the key swing came on four consecutive errors by the Pirates as the Pioneers won 25-23 to even the match at a set apiece.
Tusculum overcame an 18-13 deficit in the third set, using an 8-3 run to tie the score at 21 following a Voelker kill. Armstrong took the lead 23-22 following Caina Marinho’s kill. But Tusculum bounced back with kills from Raterman and Underwood to get to set point (24-23). Armstrong fought off four set points down the stretch, but Stauffer’s kill gave the Pioneers a 29-27 marathon win to take a 2-1 lead in the contest.
Tusculum used a big service run by Berling midway through the fourth set, turning a one-point lead into a 15-9 advantage. Tusculum increased its advantage to 20-12 and later again to 23-15 on a Raterman kill. The Pirates fought off match point three times, but Hasse halted the threat with her 16th kill of the night and sent the Pioneers into the third round.
Armstrong placed four players in double-digit kills, led by Jessica Santaniello’s 13 kills. Brittany Wolf hit .478 with 12 kills, while Jones and Marinho added 10 kills apiece. Ashley Seal finished her season with nine kills, 33 assists and 14 digs in the contest.
Armstrong edged TC in hits (.210-.208), but the Pioneers hit .275 in their final two sets combined, including a .368 in the third frame.