Pioneers earn third straight win with 16-14 victory over Coker

Juliette Cusano scored 5 goals in Tusculum's 16-14 SAC win over Coker (photo by Kendrick Grant)
Juliette Cusano scored 5 goals in Tusculum's 16-14 SAC win over Coker (photo by Kendrick Grant)

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- Tusculum won its third consecutive match with a 16-14 victory over Coker in South Atlantic Conference women's lacrosse action Friday afternoon at Pioneer Field.

Juliette Cusano led the Pioneers (5-8, 3-2 SAC) with five goals and an assist as Tusculum never trailed, but did not lead by any more than three goals in the contest. Coker tied the game at 7-7 early in the second half, and pulled within a goal twice in the final 12 minutes, but could not find the equalizer.

Haley McCusker scored a game-high seven goals for the Cobras (2-9, 0-4 SAC), who finished even in shots with the Pioneers at 28 apiece. Faith Kent, who entered the day leading the SAC in goals (50) and points (73), was limited to a goal and an assist on just three shots for Coker.

Madison Malone added two goals and an assist for the Pioneers, while Erin Sims, Emily Gleason and Savannah Elliott each finished with two goals and an assist. Megann McKinney contributed a goal and an assist for Tusculum, with a goal apiece for Rachel Holmes and Shelby Gray.

Tusculum scored the first two goals of the game courtesy of Gleason and Cusano, but McCusker scored twice in five minutes to tie the score at 2-2 with 16:05 left in the first half. The Pioneers answered with three consecutive goals, two in a row from Elliott and the third from McKinney, to go on top 5-2 with 9:56 left in the half. McCusker's third of the game brought the Cobras within 5-3 with 4:28 to play in the half, and Holmes and Coker's Bailey O'Brien exchanged goals as Tusculum led 6-4 at halftime.

The Pioneers went on top 7-4 on a goal by Cusano early in the second half, but the Cobras responded with three straight in a span of 1:11 to tie the game at 7-7 with 27:07 to play. The Pioneers came right back with three in a row of their own over a 1:16 stretch, with Malone scoring once and Cusano twice to give the Pioneers a 10-7 edge.

A pair of goals by McCusker were answered by goals from Malone and Gleason to leave Tusculum ahead 12-9 with 15:29 to go. Coker would pull within a goal on back-to-back goals from Jaeme Noriega and Katie Drisekll, but Cusano's fifth of the day pushed the Pioneers on top 13-11 with 10:55 remaining. Sims added a man-down goal with 9:16 left as the Pioneers went ahead 14-11, but Sarah Bryson and McCusker again brought the Cobras within a goal at 14-13 with 5:49 to play.

Sims gave the Pioneers an insurance goal with 3:57 remaining, and Gray added another with 2:58 left as Tusculum went ahead 16-13. Coker was credited with the final goal of the game with 1:25 remaining after an errant pass went into the Tusculum net.

The Pioneers finished with 17 ground balls as a team, led by three apiece from Sims and Holmes. Cusano had a team-high three caused turnovers, followed by Sims and Christen Craig with two each, and Holmes had a team-high four draw controls.

For Coker, Kent had nine draw controls as the Cobras had a 19-13 edge on draws over the Pioneers. McCusker had a game-high seven ground balls and also finished with four draw controls and a pair of caused turnovers.

Kate Pipkin played the first half and the final six minutes in goal for the Pioneers and had four saves, with Brooke Wagner making seven stops during a 24-minute stint in the second half. Cassie Williams finished with seven saves for Coker.

The Pioneers will be on the road Wednesday at 1 p.m. for a SAC match at Lincoln Memorial.