A trend is developing with the TWU Pioneers' volleyball team that has head coach Shelly Barberee a little baffled.
"We're headed in the right direction," she said. "We're just going through the country to get there." Jablonska honored
Texas Woman's University junior Viktorija Jablonska has been named Lone Star Conference Volleyball Offensive Player of the Week for Sept. 20-26. Viktorija Jablonska
Jablonska helped the Pioneers to a 1-1 record on the road last week with a team-high 38 kills. She was the leader on offense against Texas A&M-Kingsville and Incarnate Word with 18 and a career-high 20 kills, respectively. Jablonska has posted 14 or more kills in five of the last six matches and leads the team in hitting percentage at .254.
TWU will play its final five nonconference matches this week. The Pioneers will play Central Oklahoma today at Kitty Magee Arena before hosting the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Classic on Friday and Saturday.
That "right direction" is reflected in her team's 3-3 record the past six games, which has improved the Pioneers to 3-8 overall this season.
At the same time, the Pioneers have traveled a long, hard road to those victories, having played five of their last six games in extended five-match outings. Fortunately, they've been able to post a 3-2 mark in those exhaustive full-set games.
"It's hard physically and it's hard emotionally," said Barberee of her team's recent tendency to find itself in the position of having to play five complete sets each time it takes the court. "And most of the time we're down by a 0-2 deficit and then we have to come back and win sets three, four and five.
"What we're seeing is once the team gets its back against the wall, they come back fighting. One thing I can say, our team is a fighting team -they'll fight to the last point."
The five-set trend started earlier this month when TWU lost its opening two sets to Midwestern State and Abilene Christian. The Pioneers bounced back in both games, winning the final three sets to claim victories in back-to-back outings.
Last week, TWU won two out of the first three sets against Texas A&M-Kingsville, but lost a three-point fourth set before coming back to take the deciding fifth set, 15-7. Two days later against Incarnate Word, the Pioneers lost the first two sets, came back to win sets three and four and then fell, 15-13, in the final set.
"It's hard on everybody. It's hard on the players and hard on the coaches," said Barberee. "But in the offseason when we were putting them through some tough workouts, we told them it was because there were going to be some five-set games this season."
Pioneers to host Holiday Inn tournament
Volleyball fans will find Kitty Magee Arena a great place to be this weekend when the Pioneers host the eight-team Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Classic.
Playing their final nonconference games of the season, the Pioneers are scheduled to play Arkansas-Monticello (1 p.m.) and nationally ranked Arkansas Tech (7 p.m.) on Friday followed by Saturday games against Southeastern Oklahoma (12:30 p.m.) and Texas A&M-International (6:30 p.m.).
Rounding out the eight-team field will be Texas A&M-Commerce, Western Missouri and Arkansas-Fort Smith. All games in the two-day tournament will be held at Kitty Magee Arena.
"This will be a good week for us to try some new things to work on for the second half of [Lone Star] conference play," said Barberee. "There'll be no easy games."
The Pioneers return to Lone Star Conference play at home next Tuesday when they host Tarleton State.
Scoring first not benefiting TWU
Scoring first in a soccer game should boost a team's chance at success, but the Pioneers are finding an early goal doesn't necessarily equate with winning.
Four times this season - in half of TWU's eight games played so far - the Pioneers have put up the first goal on the scoreboard. Unfortunately, that initial goal hasn't translated into any victories. It happened again twice last weekend in back-to-back defeats that kept the Pioneers winless at 0-6-2.
"It's frustrating," said head coach Fleur Benatar. "We're definitely in games. But we had some misfortune and the other team scored and then we lose some faith. We lose a little confidence because we don't know why this is happening."
Last Friday at Incarnate Word, Brittany Martin broke a scoreless first-half tie with a goal at the 62:00 mark to give the Pioneers a lead. But Incarnate Word responded with two goals 37 seconds apart to eventually take a 2-1 victory. Then on Sunday at Angelo State, Marianne Hubnik scored midway through the opening half before the hosts scored twice before halftime to earn the 2-1 win.
In games that ended in 1-1 ties earlier this season against Dallas Baptist and Washburn, the Pioneers also scored early in the opening half only to give up goals later on that resulted in frustrating overtime deadlocks.
TWU returns to the road this week with Lone Star Conference games at Abilene Christian on Friday and at Midwestern State on Sunday.