Coming off Saturday’s 194.250-193.325 win over Bowling Green, TWU is searching for the confidence necessary to do more than just perform well. With powerhouses Oklahoma, Minnesota and Michigan State visiting Kitty Magee Arena this Sunday for a four-way meet, the Pioneers will have an opportunity to position themselves for the NCAA regionals.
“It’s an exciting meet, and it’s a perfect scenario for us to be in at this point of the season after coming off a win that we knew that we could have easily lost,” third-year TWU head coach Lisa Bowerman said. “I fully expect that they’ll rise to the occasion and rise to the level of competition. I just think for it’s great for them to be in that position. There’s going to be a lot of energy in the gym and there’s going to be a great crowd.”
The Pioneers didn’t have any individual event winners in the dual with Bowling Green. If they are going to improve, it’s going to take special attention to the details.
“The biggest differences are the details on every event,” Bowerman said. “It’s the landings on bars. It’s the handstands on beam. It’s hitting landings without wobbles. It’s not taking hops and steps on our vault landings. On bars and beam, it’s sticking our dismounts. On floor, it’s hitting our leap-and-tumbling passes with good, controlled landings. It’s not major changes. What it’s going to take is the courage and confidence to perform the details the way they practice them.”
Oklahoma is No. 3 in the nation, Minnesota is ranked 12th and Michigan State 40th.
TWU is ranked 46th in terms of its regional qualifying score, which is the average of the Pioneers’ top six scores — with three required road scores included and their top score dropped.
TWU is looking to improve its RQS (193.535) to a top-36 score for postseason competition, and the line currently stands at 194.465.
With the level of competition coming to Denton this weekend, TWU is looking to drop its lowest home score (192.675), which came when the Pioneers beat Centenary and Lindenwood in a triangular Feb. 9.
Since TWU lost 6-5 to Adams State in its final game of the Desert Stinger Tournament in Las Vegas, the Pioneers have rattled off 10 straight victories, including two games against regional rival St. Edward’s and a three-game sweep of Texas A&M-Kingsville last weekend to open Lone Star Conference play.
The first-place Pioneers (17-3, 3-0 Lone Star) will head to San Angelo to take on Angelo State (14-7, 2-1), which is in a three-way tie for second, on Friday and Saturday.
TWU coach Genny Stidham said the series is important.
“All the series are important, because if you have a bad weekend, it could take you down a notch,” Stidham said. “When the final scores are tallied, a lot of times it’s neck and neck who’s going to make the conference tournament. I’m not trying to put too much concentration on the fact that it’s Angelo State.”
The Pioneers’ depth will get a chance to play a bigger role than in previous seasons, and one role player Stidham pointed out was junior Amanda Shirley.
“Amanda Shirley has started a few games for us,” Stidham said. “She was here in the fall. I think you’re going to start seeing more playing time for her. She’s kind of deceptively quick, and I think when we were playing St. Edward’s she went 4-for-4 in one of the games because they didn’t realize how quick she is getting from home to first.”
Injecting Shirley into the lineup could mean that TWU would have a large number of speedy slap hitters — something Stidham said she prefers when strategizing.
“Against St. Edward’s, that worked out for us very well,” Stidham said. “If they are very talented, the more the merrier because there are so many more things that you can do and execute. I like the hit-and-run. I like to squeeze and I like to bunt. It’s more fun for me than to just sit up there, clap my hands and tell the hitter to hit the ball.”
Stidham says her team has plenty to work on and will need top-notch pitching to counter the high-powered offense that Angelo State sends to the plate.
“We have to make sure we stay focused and stay on task, that we’re making sure we’re more technically correct,” Stidham said. “We need to make sure we execute the bunt-and-run, the squeeze plays and the hit-and-runs. That’s important. We’re still missing a little bit more than we should be at this point in time.”