At the beginning of the season, TWU soccer coach Babak Abouzar believed his team had the pieces in place to make a run for its first Lone Star Conference title.
After two road wins at Texas A&M-Commerce and UT Tyler over the weekend, the Pioneers improved their record to 11-2 on the season and 7-1 in LSC play.
TWU’s 11 wins tie a program record for most wins in a single season, and the Pioneers still have five regular season games remaining.
In the LSC standings, TWU sits one game back from an undefeated Dallas Baptist squad. On Saturday at 7 p.m., the Pioneers will have an opportunity to knock off one of the top teams in the nation when they host No. 9 Dallas Baptist at Pioneer Soccer Park.
“I think everybody’s aware of the opportunity, but we try not to look at the big picture,” Abouzar said. “There will be a time for that later on. We just want to focus on the things that we can control. If we can continue to do that throughout the rest of the season, we’ll put ourselves in a good spot to be successful.”
The Patriots (11-0-1) enter this week on an 11-game winning streak after tying Central Oklahoma in the opening match of the season.
“They’re very talented,” Abouzar said. “They’re coached very well and are really disciplined. I think it will come down to us to do our part and dictate the game as much as possible, and we must limit what DBU loves to do. I believe our team is up to the challenge.”
One reason for the TWU’s historical season is their ability to win close matches. The Pioneers hold a 7-1 record in matches decided by one goal.
“No matter how we’re playing, our mentality to scratch and claw has always been there,” Abouzar said. “We have a resilient group of players who know that when things aren’t going our way, we will fix it instead of panicking. Our girls will give everything they have until the last whistle blows.”
Volleyball: TWU starts to hit its stride
After a tumultuous start to the 2019 season, a young TWU volleyball team has settled in during conference play.
The Pioneers (10-10, 6-4 in LSC) have shown glimpses of brilliance throughout the year, but one problem continues to prevent TWU from climbing to the top of the Lone Star Conference standings.
The ability to string together wins on a consecutive basis has prevented TWU from taking the next step in a loaded LSC.
The latest example occurred over the weekend, when the Pioneers dropped a five-set thriller to No. 23 Texas A&M-Commerce before defeating UT Tyler the next day.
Coach Jeff Huebner said TWU’s young athleticism has teams worried about the Pioneers as the second half of conference play gets under way.
“As much as it’s important to play well throughout the season, it’s really important to play well at the end of the year,” Huebner said. “We need to stop splitting weekends and put together a 2-0 weekend here in the near future. I do know that there’s nobody hoping to see TWU. I think we’re too athletic and we’re too skilled.”
The Pioneers have relied on a skilled front row to lead the way defensively in 2019. Trixie Oche leads the entire league with 1.22 blocks per set.
During the win over UT Tyler, the sophomore middle blocker guided the Pioneers to 16 total blocks, a program record for team blocks in a single match.
“We’ve obviously spent lots of time on blocking,” Huebner said. “Our staff has been committed to making that one of our strengths. When you consider the athleticism of our team, we have to play to our strengths, which is doing a really good job at the net. We’ve changed a lot about our technique and movements, and we’re starting to see it come together at the right time.”
TWU will play Texas A&M-International on Friday before playing a stout Texas A&M-Kingsville team on Saturday. Two wins this weekend could give the Pioneers the momentum they need with the regular season coming to a close in three weeks.
“We’ve had so many young people contributing for a long time, and we’re starting to see some of the collegiate level output that we’ve been looking for,” Huebner said. “It looks like we’re starting to get around the corner here, and we’re looking forward to the challenge this weekend.a