Zias get past Highlands, end losing streak

CNJ staff

LAS VEGAS, N.M. — Eastern New Mexico University trailed in all four games, but the Zias were able to rally Tuesday night for a 25-22, 16-25, 26-24, 25-18 victory over New Mexico Highlands in a battle of struggling volleyball programs.

The Zias (6-22) had lost eight in a row and 13 of their last 14 coming in, but that pales in comparison to the Cowgirls (1-26). Highlands has dropped 19 in a row overall since beating Oklahoma Panhandle State in four games for its only win of the season on Sept. 5 in a tournament at ENMU, and the Cowgirls finished their home schedule at 0-11.

Sophomore middle blocker Jessica King compiled 10 kills and four total blocks for ENMU, while junior setter Veronica Valdez-Kent had nine kills and 11 digs. Senior libero Caitlin Murphy, meantime, finished with 19 digs and collected six of the Zias’ nine service aces.

For Highlands, freshman outside hitter Vanessa Leal and junior middle blocker Dominique Benton had 13 kills apiece, while junior middle Colleen Chauncey added 11 kills and six total blocks.

The Cowgirls opened an 11-2 lead in the first set, but the Zias chipped away and moved in front 19-18 on a kill by freshman Megan Longoria. Highlands pulled even 22-22 on a kill by Doreen Zamora, but Valdez-Kent’s kill put the Zias back in front and two Highlands attack errors closed it out.

ENMU opened an 11-8 lead in the second game on a kill by King, but Highlands scored nine of the next 10 points and pulled away down the stretch.

The Cowgirls built a 13-7 lead in the third game on a kill by Zamora, and led 24-22 after a service error by Murphy. But Highlands made three consecutive errors to bring the Zias to set point, and freshman Megan Carpenter’s kill gave ENMU a 2-1 lead in games.

Highlands held leads of 9-5 and 12-9 in the fourth set. ENMU rallied for a 16-15 lead on a bad set by Benton and never relinquished the lead, scoring 11 of the final 15 points.

The Zias finish their season on Thursday with a 6 p.m. (MST) Lone Star Conference match at first-place and nationally ranked West Texas A&M.