First-year soccer coach Babak Abouzar saw enough positive things this season — despite the fact that TWU missed advancing to the Lone Star Conference tournament — that he’s nothing but optimistic about the future.
“I keep telling myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Abouzar said. “As a coach I have to put things in perspective. There’s no reason for the girls to get down. A lot of positive things happened this season.
“I’m very optimistic about the future of the program and where it’s headed.”
TWU finished 5-11-2 overall with a 2-7-1 mark in LSC play. The Pioneers suffered six one-goal losses and were shut out seven times. TWU got overpowered in a 4-1 loss to Angelo State, but in the six other conference defeats no opponent was able to score more than two goals on the Pioneers.
“The things that didn’t go our way easily could have,” Abouzar said. “That’s always frustrating, but I couldn’t ask for any more from the team than to be playing for something on the last weekend of the season.”
The Pioneers were extremely young this season, with 10 true freshmen on the roster. But on Sunday at home against West Texas A&M, a win would have sent TWU to the LSC tournament for the second year in a row and the fifth time in history.
A 2-1 loss knocked the Pioneers out of contention and ended Abouzar’s first season at the helm.
“In every conference game, with the exception of one, we were in it down to the wire,” Abouzar said. “I think that speaks volumes about the players we have and the players we are recruiting.”
TWU will lose just two seniors off this year’s team — Mariel Parra and Tareyn Blanton. Among those returning next season will be this year’s leading scorer, Alisa Velasquez.
Win streak, then break
What does a four-game winning streak get you late in the season? For the Pioneers, it’s a one-week break before the final road game of the regular season.
TWU is playing some of its best volleyball of the year as the season heads into its final two weeks. The Pioneers improved to 9-4 in the LSC and 18-8 overall on Saturday after downing Midwestern State in three sets. The win put TWU in third place in the LSC standings.
The Pioneers will resume play Saturday when they travel to Texas A&M-Kingsville.
Not only have the Pioneers won their last four outings, all four have come quickly in the form of 3-0 sweeps.
Beginning next Tuesday, TWU will play its last three regular-season matches. The Pioneers will play host to Southeastern Oklahoma State, West Texas A&M (Nov. 15) and Eastern New Mexico (Nov. 16).
TWU sweeps LSC awards
After going 3-0 last week, TWU swept the weekly conference awards. Senior Marcela Alves was named offensive player of the week, junior Morgan Wilson earned defensive honors and freshman Kimberly Bell was named setter of the week.
The trio led the Pioneers to three-set wins against Tarleton State, Cameron and Midwestern State.
Alves led the team with 31 kills, .459 hitting percentage, 40 points and 16 total blocks. She reached double digits in kills in all three matches. For the season, she is the team leader in kills per set (2.33), hitting percentage (.274), solo blocks (18) and total blocks (120).
Wilson posted a team-best 42 digs on defense. She recorded 13 or more digs in all three matches. Wilson has a team-best 444 digs and is fourth in aces (12).
Bell was the team leader in assists with 57 after running a 6-2 offense. She posted 14 or more assists in all three matches. On the season, Bell has 487 assists and a team-best 25 aces.
Pioneers set for exhibition
The Pioneers will host Hardin-Simmons for their only exhibition game at 7 p.m. Thursday. Admission will be free.
TWU returns seven letter winners from last year’s 7-19 team that finished 5-15 in conference play. Among the returning veterans are the top three scorers and the top two rebounders from a year ago.
Four returning seniors — Rebekah Cluley, Taylor Swift, Kaitlyn Waller and Mary Kovtun — head the list of players back from 2012-13. The Pioneers will have a full roster that includes four incoming freshmen and two transfers.
TWU will open the regular season Monday at Kitty Magee Arena against Ouachita Baptist.
Pack The House III
TWU has scheduled “Pack The House III” for Monday’s season opener. The promotion is in its third year after setting a school-record athletics attendance mark of 1,373 to kick off the 2011-12 basketball season.
There will be free admission to the game as well as several drawings for TWU students, including a spring 2014 housing scholarship, a spring 2014 tuition/fees prize and a bookstore credit prize.
Free T-shirts will be handed out to the first 250 fans in attendance.
Pioneers picked sixth
In a preseason poll of Lone Star Conference head coaches, sports information directors and media representatives, the Pioneers were picked to finish sixth.
Defending champion Midwestern State received 20 of 25 first-place votes and was selected to win the LSC title in 2013-14.
League play begins Dec. 5 with the top eight teams advancing to the LSC tournament, scheduled for March 5-8 in Allen.