PORTALES — The Eastern New Mexico University women’s team has made it to the Lone Star Conference postseason tournament just once in its eight-year history. The Zias finished 11th in the then-12-team LSC last season, and were picked for last in the revised eight-team league this year.
First-year coach Todd Padgett, though, thinks the sky’s the limit.
“Absolutely, we want to win a conference championship,” he said. “Some of the teams in the upper echelon of the league last year (lost) six or seven or eight seniors, so for me it’s ripe for the taking.”
The Zias host New Mexico Highlands at 4:30 p.m. today in what both sides are playing as an exhibition game. The regular-season begins for ENMU next Thursday at home against Colorado School of Mines.
Padgett, a women’s assistant coach for the last three years at his alma mater, Fort Lewis College, was hired at ENMU when Ray Nause stepped down after three seasons. The Zias’ roster includes 15 freshmen, several of whom Padgett expects to play key roles.
He said the Zias will play more of a ball-control, work-the-ball-up-the-field style.
“I got here in January, so I had a good three or four months to implement a change of system, change of philosophy,” Padgett said. “We’re going to keep the ball and make teams chase us.
“Hopefully, people who watch us will say, ‘Wow, that team moves the ball well.’”
The Zias (5-13, 2-9 LSC last year) return about a half-dozen players with significant experience, including senior Sierra Cardenas of Wheat Ridge, Colo., a fourth-year starter in goal.
Others include sophomore midfielders Desiree Dominguez of Alamogordo and Gerilyn Armijo of Las Cruces, junior defender Andrea Lister of Albuquerque, sophomore defender Andrea Lister of Albuquerque and junior midfielder Andrea Elizondo of El Paso, who sat out last season with a torn ACL.
Elizondo, the younger sister of former ENMU men’s coach Carlos Elizondo, thinks the Zias have adjusted to the new style of play.
“I think he’s brought so much energy to the program and to the girls,” she said of Padgett. “We’re excited to play for him and excited to play for each other.
“It’s been an adjustment, but it’s been a good one.”
Elizondo stopped a bit short of projecting a possible LSC title for the Zias, but she’s confident they’ll be improved.
“I think that’s in our deal of cards, for sure,” she said. “I think if we play the way he wants us to play, we definitely have that potential.”
August: 26 — New Mexico Highlands (exhibition), 4:30 p.m.
September: 1 — Colorado School of Mines, 1 p.m.; 4 — Texas-Permian Basin, 1 p.m.; 11 — Southwestern Oklahoma, 2 p.m.; 13 — West Texas A&M, 4 p.m.-x; 16 — at Texas Woman’s, 3 p.m.-x; 18 — at Texas A&M-Commerce, 11 a.m.-x; 20 — Wayland Baptist, 2 p.m.; 23 — Abilene Christian, 2 p.m.-x; 25 — Midwestern State, 2 p.m.-x; 30 — at Incarnate Word, 5 p.m.-x.
October: 2 — at Angelo State, noon-x; 7 — at Abilene Christian, 3 p.m.-x; 9 — at Midwestern State, noon-x; 14 — Texas Woman’s, 4 p.m.-x; 16 — Texas A&M-Commerce, noon-x; 21 — Incarnate Word, 4 p.m.-x; 23 — Angelo State, 1 p.m.-x; 26 — at West Texas A&M, 5 p.m.-x.
All times Mountain. x-Denotes Lone Star Conference matches.