TWU forward Jaycee Fuller entered her first season of collegiate soccer with high expectations from the Pioneers’ coaching staff.
After enduring a few growing pains to start the season, Fuller has rebounded with three goals to start her freshman year. However, none were more important than her latest score, a decisive left-footed goal in the 30th minute to help TWU defeat West Texas A&M 1-0.
The Lady Buffs finished at the top of the Lone Star Conference last season before making a run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.
“It definitely took Jaycee some time to get used to the rigor and physicality of the college game,” coach Babak Abouzar said. “She had to adjust to our system and how we play. I definitely feel like she’s grown in her little bit of time here, and she’s stepped up to help us out in her attacking role.”
TWU (9-2, 5-1 in LSC) also defeated Eastern New Mexico 3-1 last weekend behind two second-half goals from Hannah Schneider and Abigail Martinez. Kaylee Rekieta added a goal in the first half.
“It was a great weekend for us,” Abouzar said. “We knew it was going to be a challenging two games. We went into each game with a game plan, and we executed very well.”
The Pioneers have exhibited a top-of-the-line defense in 2019. Through 11 matches, TWU goalkeeper Daniela Marin has recorded six shutouts. In the last six matches, the Pioneers have allowed just three goals.
“Defensively, I just think it starts with our mentality,” Abouzar said. “It’s something we talk about, consistently practice. We like to press teams and put them under as much pressure as possible. When we do that, we’re able to force mistakes and turnovers on our end of the field.”
TWU sits in fourth place in the LSC standings and remain one game back from first place Dallas Baptist, who the Pioneers will play in two weeks.
As for this weekend’s matches, TWU will hit the road to play Texas A&M-Commerce on Thursday and UT Tyler on Saturday.
Volleyball: Ugbaja shining on TWU’s front row
The Texas Woman’s volleyball team continued its roller coaster ride of a season after splitting last weekend’s matches with a sweep over Western New Mexico and a heartbreaking loss to UT Permian Basin.
As the Pioneers continue to strive for consistency, the emergence of outside hitter Elizabeth Ugbaja has TWU coach Jeff Huebner optimistic that the Pioneers are about to catch their stride.
Along with leading the team in kills during the last three matches, Ugbaja finished with a team-high 24 kills over last weekend’s two matches.
“Last year she [Ugbaja] played a lot as a freshman,” Huebner said. “She had good opportunities, but she was still kind of getting her feet wet even as last year came to a close. She’s stepped up big for us this year. She’s jumping high and hitting the ball really hard while making good decisions on the court. She’s really been carrying the load for us recently.”
In TWU’s five-set loss to UTPB, the Pioneers struggled to block the Lady Falcons hitters. Six different Lady Falcons finished the match hitting over .250.
“I like the grit we showed to stay in that UTPB game,” Huebner said. “But if we don’t clamp down on those blocking concerns, then we could be in some trouble.”
The Pioneers (9-9, 5-3 in LSC) have had trouble stringing together wins throughout the course of the season. TWU only has one winning streak of two matches since Sept. 13, when the Pioneers defeated Henderson State and Harding during back-to-back matches at the Pioneer Invitational.
TWU hits the road this weekend for two tough contests against No. 25 Texas A&M Commerce and UT Tyler. Huebner remains confident that the Pioneers’ athleticism has them on the cusp of a breakout performance in a competitive Lone Star Conference.
“It just comes down to what our culture is going to rally into,” Huebner said. “When we serve well and we block well, we’re just too much to handle athletically. We’ve demonstrated excellence in every skill set at one point this year. Now we just have to put it all together.”