Very few teams enter West Texas A&M’s volleyball arena, “The Box”, and escape with a win. In fact, the Lady Buffs hold the best home record in all of Division II throughout the last two decades.
The hectic atmosphere normally rattles opposing players and coaches. Nonetheless, the Texas Woman’s Pioneers entered last Saturday’s road match against the Lady Buffs with confidence coming off a straight set victory over Eastern New Mexico.
After dropping the first set 12-25 to West Texas A&M, TWU put together an incredible rally to defeat the Lady Buffs 3-1, marking the signature win the Pioneers have been looking for.
“There’s not a harder to place to play than West Texas A&M,” TWU coach Jeff Huebner said. “I’m a believer that in league play, you’re ‘everybody’ until you have a road win. Everybody tends to win at home, and if you can get a signature road win then you can kind of jump into the top-third of the league.”
Sophomore middle blocker Trixie Oche dominated at the net for the Pioneers. She finished with a season high 10 blocks while totaling 10 kills for her first double-double of the year. Oche now sits in third in the LSC with 68 total blocks.
The sophomore from Richardson has also shown a major improvement on the offensive side of the net. After finishing her freshman campaign with a .139 hitting percentage, Oche has elevated that number to .282 through 16 matches in 2019.
“Trixie Oche has been incredible,” Huebner said. “She’s one of the highest touchers in the league, and she’s a really, really smart kid. She continues to grow all the time and has great character. As a blocker, there’s nothing you can do against her when she wants the ball.”
Tuesday night TWU fell to No. 22 Tarleton State 3-1 at Kitty Magee Arena.
Sophomore Elizabeth Ugbaja finished the match with a team-high 12 kills, and Huebner said he is impressed by Ugbaja’s growth over the past two weeks to become one of the team’s top hitters.
“We demonstrated that when we make good decisions with the ball, we’re as tough as anybody,” Huebner said. “That’s never been the question for me. It’s just wondering whether or not we’re going to be locked in enough to do our job.”
The Pioneers continue their homestand this weekend with matches against Western New Mexico and Texas Permian-Basin.
Soccer: TWU hoping ‘wake-up call’ elevates play
The Pioneers cruised out to a 6-1 start on the season behind a hard-nosed defense and outstanding play from several veteran forwards. It’s no question TWU was on a roll, and the Pioneers even garnered votes in the latest Top 25 poll.
However, the first match of last weekend’s West Texas road trip didn’t seem like the same TWU squad from the first month of the season.
In TWU’s Thursday night match against Lubbock Christian, the Pioneers relinquished two early goals and dug themselves a hole against a Chapparal squad that entered the match on a five-game winning streak.
Despite a second-half goal from Haley Ward, TWU dropped its first conference match in a 2-1 loss to Lubbock Christian.
“We dug ourselves a hole early on and just got outworked,” TWU coach Babek Abouzar said. “We just came out unprepared, and it cost us three points on the road.”
After the match, Abouzar held a team meeting in the locker room to discuss the Pioneers’ sub-par play in the first half. He called the loss to LCU a “wake-up call” and hopes his squad understands how much focus it takes to win in the LSC.
“We talked about our performance after the game,” Abouzar said. “What we’ve done thus far doesn’t matter. This is a tough conference, and if you don’t show up to play then you’re going to pay for it.”
During Saturday afternoon’s match at Odessa against Texas Permian-Basin, the Pioneers looked to be back.
TWU jumped out to an early start, scoring two goals in the first half before adding two more in the last 45 minutes to defeat UTPB 4-0.
TWU returns home this weekend for a Thursday match against West Texas A&M at Pioneer Soccer Park. West Texas A&M won the Lone Star Conference last season and advanced to the Elite Eight in the 2018 NCAA Division II Tournament.
“It starts with us worrying about ourselves and making sure that we’re focused,” Abouzar said. “West Texas A&M is always a difficult team to play, so we’re going to have to prepare for them and make sure that we limit the things they like to do.”