JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – An away tilt against rival Tusculum will serve as the final chapter for the regular season for the Carson-Newman Eagles – but the fight for postseason play wages on.
Stuck in a fight for one of the eight spots that the Southeast region is afforded for the NCAA Tournament, each game from here until the end of the South Atlantic Conference tournament is a chance for the Eagles (9-5-1, 6-2-1) to bolster its resume and improve as a unit.
"It just seems when we meet Tusculum that we always get a very good game, if not their best game for it…" head coach Simon Duffy said. "We need to put a performance in that warrants us winning the game. It doesn't matter who that is against."
C-N, who will finish no worse than fourth in the conference, have secured home-field advantage for the SAC tournament quarterfinals and will host a team to be determined on Nov. 9 before potentially traveling to Matthews, N.C. for the semifinals and finals of the tournament set to take place at the Mecklenburg County Sportsplex on Nov. 15-17. The Eagles could jump as high as third on the table with a Catawba loss or draw against Wingate.
Tusculum (7-9, 3-6 SAC), however, are in a fight for the eighth and final spot into postseason SAC play. A win against C-N and the Pioneers are in. A loss or a draw and they are done for the season.
Tusculum is a team that has struggled defensively, allowing 29 goals on the season – the third-highest mark in the SAC, respectively. The team has also scored the third-fewest goals in the conference with 16 total. One player, junior defense Yvette Raaijen, has eclipsed the double-digit point mark for the Pioneers with four goals and two assists.
Offensively for C-N, coach Simon Duffy pointed to the last two games against Catawba and Wingate to signal the opportunities that fell just short of being converted into goals. Duffy alluded to a "killer instinct" that the squad lacked against Wingate in the effort to finish the ball into the back of the net. Against Tusculum, C-N will hope to tune-up before the conference tournament and look to make the best of its quality scoring looks.
"I thought we created a lot of great chances (against Wingate)," Duffy said. "Their keeper came up trumps (made a huge impact) on a few (shots) and a few went narrowly wide. Against Catawba, I thought we had some really, really good opportunities. So, I'm not overly concerned about creating offensive chances, it's just being more clinical."
Goaltending duties for the Pioneers has been shared by junior Cecilie Ting Mortensen and senior Danielle Breen. In six starts early in the season, Mortensen posted a 2.11 GAA with 14 goals allowed against 37 saves. The past seven matches have seen Breen in net for Tusculum, posting a 1.59 GAA with 12 goals allowed against 44 saves in 10 total matches on the season.
Tusculum is one of three teams in the SAC with two goalies that have played over 500 minutes on the season. The other two, Newberry and Mars Hill, resulted in victories for the side of C-N earlier in the season.
Tusculum leads the overall head to head against C-N with a combined 17-18-2 record With a team vying for the chance to take the field in postseason play
"We have to go down there knowing that we're going to have to meet every bit of energy that they have to bring," Duffy said. "But I'm hoping that we can exceed that, put a few goals in the back of the net and keep all of them out on our end."
Kickoff at Pioneer Field is set for 5 p.m.