PORTALES — The Eastern New Mexico University men’s cross country team hopes to end Abilene Christian’s long domination of the Lone Star Conference this weekend.
ACU has won the last 20 LSC championships, but the Greyhounds are positioned to make a strong run at the Wildcats in Saturday’s league event at San Angelo, Texas.
“There’s just a ton of tradition there,” first-year ENMU coach Mike Harney said of ACU. “That’s what we’ve been preaching — we’re trying to build a tradition.”
Harney has been away from the office for a couple of days as his fiance, Jocelyn Munoz, gave birth to a son, Mason, on Wednesday. He and his team leave for San Angelo this morning.
An assistant the previous three years under Eric Boll, he noted that Hounds went from seventh place in 2008 to third two years ago to second last year.
Junior Isaiah Samoei and seniors Tallan Kipruto and Mohamed Noor lead ENMU’s men, who are also hoping for a top-two team finish and NCAA Division II national berth in the South Central Region meet on Nov. 5 at Wichita Falls, Texas.
“We’re as ready as we can be,” Harney said.
ENMU’s women, meantime, hope to make a strong showing, led by senior Nicky Reid and sophomore Adrienne Montoya. Three-time champion Midwestern State goes in as the favorite.
“I think our women are a bit underrated,” Harney said. “If our girls can put together a great race, we should have a chance to do well.”
Men’s soccer — The Greyhounds (7-3-4, 3-0-1 LSC) lead the four-team conference, having already tied Incarnate Word and beaten Midwestern State, both top 10 teams at the time, but will still have to beat Incarnate at home on Oct. 30 and Midwestern on the road on Nov. 4 to nail down their first league soccer title.
They also have non-league outings at Northeastern State on Sunday and against Fort Hays State on Friday. With no league tournament, coach Harold Munoz figures it’ll take three wins the rest of the way to earn an NCAA Division II berth.
“The thing (that holds them back) is we have four ties,” Munoz said. “The biggest problem has been lack of goal-scoring up top.”
The Hounds, who lost all-time scoring leader Emerson Rodrigues to graduation last year, haven’t tallied more than three goals in a match since early in the season. Still, Munoz has been pleased.
“We’ve played to our potential,” he said. “We’ve definitely stepped up against the bigger teams.”
Women’s soccer — The Zias (6-5-3, 4-3-3 LSC) are fourth and, with four matches left, well-positioned for a berth in the six-team conference tournament next month. A win today at home over seventh-place Incarnate Word (4-6-4, 2-6-3) would lock it up.
First-year coach Todd Padgett said the Zias have an outside shot at catching Midwestern State (8-4-2, 6-3-1) for the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye behind nationally second-ranked Abilene Christian, but to do it they would probably have to win out and get significant help.
“It’s very exciting when each next game is the biggest game of the season,” Padgett said. “As a team picked for last in the conference, we’re surprising people, but we still have a lot of work to do.”
Padgett said if the Zias can finish second and win an LSC tournament match to reach the semifinals, they could earn a Division II tourney berth.
“I’m obviously thrilled where we’re at, but we’re not going to rest until we become a (regular contender) in the conference,” he said.