NOW THAT LONE STAR Conference South Division play is here, is the Eastern New Mexico University volleyball team ready to take off?
The Zias were 5-10 heading into matches against Tarleton State and Texas A&M-Kingsville over the weekend at Greyhound Arena, but defeated both teams in three games. Now they host six-time South champion West Texas A&M, easily their biggest rival, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
The Lady Buffs (16-5) also opened division play with wins over TSU and TAMK, although Kingsville did manage to sneak a game.
WT has a lot of new faces this season, but the Lady Buffs will bring an eight-match winning streak to Portales.
“WT’s got all those new, young players,” ENMU coach Mike Maguire said. “Everybody’s expecting them to falter at some point, but they’ve gone through the conference so far just like they have in the past.”
Maguire said the Zias made a conscious effort to pick up their blocking last week in practice, and it paid off in the two wins.
“It seemed like we were getting a lot of touches on balls, and that helped,” he said.
Since the start of the 1999 campaign, the ENMU football team has compiled a 32-15 record. But the Hounds are 0-5 against Abilene Christian in that span, including Saturday’s 24-14 loss. Four times ENMU they came into the game at 4-0. ACU is 16-29 over the same time period.
ENMU coach Bud Elliott said the fact that the Wildcats generally have had an open date prior to meeting the Hounds has made a difference.
“I know our players were ready to play,” Elliott said Sunday. “I think sometimes in a ballgame like that you get caught up in the emotion instead of just doing your job.”
ENMU’s failure to score after tying the game early in the final quarter and then recovering a fumble on the ensuing kickoff at the ACU 13 was devastating, Elliott said.
With four of its remaining six games at Blackwater Draw, Eastern now turns its attention to Saturday’s 2 p.m. Homecoming clash with Angelo State.
“We need to get over this one,” Elliott said of the ACU loss, “and just get on with it.”
AFTER PLAYING ITS FIRST seven matches on the road, the first-year ENMU women’s soccer program has six of its final eight regular-season tilts at home — beginning with Friday’s 4 p.m. non-league outing against Hobbs-based College of the Southwest. Sunday, the Zias return to LSC play when they host West Texas A&M at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Eastern (2-5, 1-1 LSC), which edged Texas Woman’s on Friday and were blanked by unbeaten Texas A&M-Commerce on the road over the weekend, will play home matches at its practice facility, located near the ENMU baseball field. A permanent home field should be ready next year.
The Zias lost to CSW 3-2 in their opener Aug. 30.
“I think both teams have improved, but more so us,” ENMU coach Travis McCorkle said. “ I certainly expect us to play better than we did over there. The girls are really looking forward to it, and I think the community is too.”
The Zias will probably be without freshman center midfielder Katie Matthews this weekend. She fell and hit the back of her head during Friday’s match at TWU.
— CNJ Sports Writer Dave Wagner covers ENMU for Freedom Newspapers. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org