PORTALES — Trying for their first Lone Star Conference win in two seasons, the Eastern New Mexico University volleyball team hung on and hung on Saturday against Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Then the roof fell in. The Javelinas broke away from a third-game tie, scoring 18 of the final 22 points to nail down a 25-23, 26-24, 25-11 victory at Greyhound Arena.
Senior outside hitter Shaday Smith collected 13 kills with just one attack error as the Javelinas (11-17, 4-9 LSC) completed the season with four wins in their final five matches.
“Our kids came out and did a nice job of just playing,” Javs coach Shannon Alvarado said of the third set. “I felt we missed some opportunities in Games 1 and 2. At the break (after the second game), we just talked about going out and never looking back.”
The Zias (6-28, 0-13), who ended the season on a 14-match losing streak, kept things close most of the way, but managed only four kills in the third game.
“I think we played pretty well the first and second games,” said outside hitter/libero Nicole Vanderploeg, one of three Zias seniors. “We just kind of dropped the ball in the third game.”
Neither team led by more than four points in the third game. ENMU opened a 5-2 lead, then fell behind 18-14. The Zias got as close as 24-23 on a kill from senior Vanessa Wilcox, but after a timeout Kristen Chancellor’s kill put the game away for Kingsville.
The Zias quickly led 4-0 in the second set, but Kingsville came back to tie on Chancellor’s kill and neither team led by more than three the rest of the way. ENMU took a 24-23 lead when freshman middle blocker Jessica King converted a quick-set, but at 24-24 Kingsville’s Amanda Waclawczyk converted a quick-set and an overpass for a 2-0 lead in games.
The third game started out close, but sophomore outside hitter Sha Tramble’s kill put the Javs in front 8-7 and gave them a side-out. It took them only three more service rotations to finish it off.
“We just kind of got caught up in our own mistakes,” Vanderploeg said of the finish.
Chancellor added 10 kills and five block assists for Kingsville while her sister, Casey, had nine. Tramble had nine kills and a team-high 11 digs.
For the Zias, King finished with 13 kills, while junior Caitlin Murphy collected 20 digs.
“We didn’t play as well as we could,” Zias coach Kim Falkenhagen said. “It was a long, hard season for some of the girls.”
With most of the team slated to return, Falkenhagen is hopeful of better things in the future.
“We’ve got a good foundation,” she said. “We just have to learn to play a little tougher.”