After having its five-game winning streak snapped by rival West Texas A&M on Saturday, the TWU volleyball team has three important games this week as it looks to maintain a hold on third place in the Lone Star Conference.
The Pioneers won their fifth straight game Friday in a sweep of Texas-Permian Basin before West Texas returned the favor Saturday.
"They were complete opposites in terms of the mental prep and cognitive management, and the way our players approached those games," TWU coach Jeff Huebner said. "I think we have to talk ourselves out of who WTAMU is. We saw some bright spots but just couldn't get over the hump."
The Pioneers hosted Cameron on Tuesday night and will hit the road again this weekend for games against two ranked opponents, No. 13 Tarleton State and No. 23 Angelo State.
TWU beat Cameron in four sets at the end of September, kicking off the team's five-game winning streak. The Aggies currently sit near the bottom of the LSC standings with a 2-8 conference record.
"Cameron is obviously an important match for us because it gives us a chance to separate ourselves from the middle of the pack a little bit," Huebner said. "As far as Tarleton and Angelo — we feel like a much different team from the first time we played. Our athletes are really well prepared and they can sense the urgency. It's a good spot."
Tarleton State and Angelo State will provide much stiffer tests because the teams have been among the best in the LSC this year. TSU (17-4, 9-1) sits atop the standings while ASU (13-6, 5-5) has struggled recently after dealing with injury problems.
The Pioneers will play in Tarleton on Friday and in Angelo on Saturday, hoping at least to split the series after knocking off ASU at home during the first round of LSC action.
"We're in third place in the Lone Star, and for the last five years, the third-place team has gone to the national tournament," Huebner said. "We like where we're at, and I think we have a good chance to make it into the regional rankings if we have a good week."
TWU looking to build off strong showing
The TWU soccer team had two strong showings last week, earning a 1-1 tie against Texas A&M-Commerce before giving No. 24 Midwestern State a scare in a 3-2 loss.
The team put two good halves together against Commerce after scoring early, but it was unable to finish one of several scoring opportunities in the second half that would have resulted in a win.
That momentum carried into Sunday's game against Midwestern and helped the team jump out to an early 2-1 lead. But MSU dominated the second half and eventually pulled off the come-from-behind win.
"If we played the second half like we played the first, there is no doubt in my mind we would have gotten the result we were capable of getting," TWU coach Babak Abouzar said. "It's definitely a step in the right direction. It shows that we're a real dangerous team going forward."
Now, the Pioneers will look to use those games as motivation for their final two home contests of the season this weekend with Eastern New Mexico and West Texas coming to town.
TWU is in sixth place in the LSC and sits just two points ahead of Permian Basin for the final spot in the end-of-year conference tournament. Maintaining a hold on a position in the top-6 of the LSC is key, but the Pioneers are confident playing at home will help the team build on last week's efforts.
"These are our last two home games of the season, so we want to take advantage of that," Abouzar said. "Being in your own routine is very vital. Being able to play in front of your home fans and home crowd is something we need to use to move up in the standings."