GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The Tusculum Pioneers have released its 30-match schedule for the upcoming 2017 season announced Pioneer head coach Michael Robinson.
Twenty (20) of those outings will be against South Atlantic Conference competition, while also playing 10 contests against teams that qualified for the NCAA Division II Tournament including two who advanced to the Elite Eight.
Robinson, who is entering his 10th year at the helm of the Tusculum program, returns 13 letter-winners from last year's 12-19 squad that finished eighth in the conference standings and finished as SAC quarterfinalists.
Tusculum will open the season Sep. 1-2 as the Pioneers travel to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for the Nova Southeastern Shark Invitational. TC will face two NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago to open the campaign, including the season-opener against national quarterfinalist American International (Sep. 1). It will be the first meeting between TC and the Yellow Jackets, who posted a 28-7 record last year, finished runner-up in the Northeast-10 Conference and captured the NCAA East Region title. Also on Sep. 1, TC will take on 2016 Sunshine State Conference co-champion Saint Leo. The Lions went 20-12 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
On day two of the Nova Southeastern event, TC will face St. Anselm in the inaugural encounter with the Hawks. St. Anselm went 20-8 a year ago to finish fourth in the Northeast-10. Tusculum will wrap up their Florida trip when they take on host Nova Southeastern. The Sharks went 12-19 last year and tied for seventh place in the Sunshine State Conference.
Tusculum will host arch-rival Carson-Newman on Sep. 8 in the Pioneers' home opener. The Eagles went 3-27 last season and finished 12th in the league as TC swept the season series. In-state foe Lincoln Memorial will venture to Pioneer Arena on Sep. 12. The Railsplitters went 25-9 overall to finish second in the SAC and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Tusculum will be in North Carolina for a pair of matches beginning with a Sep. 15 contest at Lenoir-Rhyne. The Bears posted a 12-18 record and finished seventh in the conference. The Pioneers will be at Catawba on Sep. 16 as the 16-13 Indians finished sixth in the SAC.
Tusculum will play six of next seven matches at home beginning with a Sep. 19 match against cross-mountain rival Mars Hill. The Lions tied for eighth in the league going 8-21 overall and split the season series with the Pioneers.
Defending SAC Champion Wingate comes to Greeneville on Sep. 22 as the Bulldogs went 29-6, won the SAC Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Queens University of Charlotte visits the Pioneers on Sep. 23. The Royals were one of the surprise teams in the league going 22-10 overall, finished third in the SAC and eliminated Wingate in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Tusculum travels to Carson-Newman on Sep. 26 for a rematch with the Eagles before returning home for home matches against Newberry (Sep. 29) and Coker (Sep. 30). Newberry tied for third place in the conference standings going 20-12 overall, while Coker placed 11th with a 13-17 mark.
Tusculum steps out of league play on Oct. 3 when the Pioneers host King. The Tornado went 13-15 overall, but went 11-5 in Conference Carolinas play to finish third in the North Division.
Tusculum will play its next six matches away from Greeneville beginning with an Oct. 6 SAC match at Anderson. The Trojans finished fifth in the conference going 19-12 overall.
The Pioneers will participate in the 2017 SAC / Peach Belt Conference Crossover, which will be held Oct. 13-14. On day one (Oct. 13), Tusculum will face Augusta and host USC Aiken. Augusta tied for sixth place in the PBC and went 17-16 overall, including a road loss at Tusculum in last year's SAC/PBC Crossover.
USC Aiken is coming off its best year in program history. The Pacers went 31-5 overall, claimed a share of the Peach Belt regular-season title and captured the NCAA Southeast Region crown to advance to the national quarterfinals. USCA rallied from a 2-1 deficit to defeat Tusculum in a five-set marathon in last year's meeting at Pioneer Arena.
Tusculum will face Georgia College and Lander on Oct. 14 in the second day of the event in Greenwood, South Carolina. Georgia College tied for sixth in the Peach Belt with a 17-14 record and lost 3-1 at Tusculum last year. Lander went 21-12 last year including a road victory at TC, while also finishing fourth in the PBC and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
The Pioneers close out the six-match road swing on Oct. 17 with a rematch at King.
Tusculum is back at home for a pair of matches with Lenoir-Rhyne on Oct. 20 and Catawba for homecoming on Oct. 21.
The Pioneers will be on the road for six in a row with leagues matches at Mars Hill (Oct. 24), Wingate (Oct. 27), Queens (Oct. 28), Lincoln Memorial (Oct. 31), Newberry (Nov. 3) and Coker (Nov. 4).
Tusculum will close out the regular season on Nov. 10 when they host Anderson for Senior Night.
The top-eight teams will qualify for the SAC Tournament with quarterfinal play being held at campus sites and hosted by the top-four seeds on Nov. 14. The semifinals and final will be held at Holt Fieldhouse on the campus of Carson-Newman in Jefferson City, Tennessee on Nov. 17-18 with the winner earning the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
The NCAA postseason will begin on Nov. 30 with regional play being hosted at campus sites. The regional champions will advance to the NCAA Elite Eight which will be held in Pensacola, Florida, Dec. 7-9.