TWU volleyball coach Shelly Barberee jokingly said this week that she spent a few minutes before practice reacquainting her athletes with Kitty Magee Arena.
The streaking Pioneers — winners of their last three matches and eight of nine — finally get to play on their home court again this week after opening the season by playing 14 of their first 15 matches on foreign floors.
TWU (11-4, 3-0 Lone Star) entertains Texas A&M-Kingsville (7-8, 1-3) at 6 p.m. Friday before hosting Angelo State in a key conference match at 7 p.m. Tuesday. TWU is in a three-way tie atop the LSC standings with Angelo State and Tarleton State.
“This week we finally have a game at home, thank goodness,” Barberee said. “It’s going to be tough — super tough. These are two big conference matches.”
The Pioneers are playing some of their best volleyball of the season. TWU remained unbeaten in conference play by defeating Cameron and Midwestern State in three-set road sweeps last week.
The Pioneers continue to get outstanding play from a variety of players. Against Cameron on Saturday, freshman setter Kimberly Bell registered a career-best 32 assists in a 25-17, 25-16, 25-18 victory.
“Getting two sweeps in a row is nice, but the fact that they were conference wins is what’s good,” Barberee said. “We need conference wins any way we can get them.”
Thanks for the tanks
At Friday’s home match against Texas A&M-Kingsville, the first 150 fans entering Kitty Magee Arena will receive a free TWU volleyball tank top.
Excited to be home
First-year head coach Babak Abouzar has seen how his Pioneers play at home — three games, three victories this season — so he’s excited about returning home after two tough overtime games last weekend.
“Obviously we’re glad to be back home,” Abouzar said. “We’re undefeated at home and know we’re going to face some tough competition this weekend.”
The Pioneers (3-5-2, 0-1-1) lost 1-0 in overtime at West Texas A&M and tied Eastern New Mexico 2-all in double overtime. TWU hosts Midwestern State at 8 p.m. Friday and Angelo State at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Against the Lady Buffs on Friday, the teams battled for 90 scoreless minutes before West Texas A&M scored the game winner eight minutes into overtime.
On Sunday against Eastern New Mexico, the Pioneers claimed a 2-1 lead in the 73rd minute, only to give up a goal off a corner kick with three minutes remaining in regulation.
“Friday against the defending conference champions it was a pretty even match,” Abouzar said. “We went into overtime with a game plan and then committed some silly fouls inside the box, and it cost us. The girls were very frustrated.
“On Sunday, we dug ourselves a hole, changed some things with our attack and went up with two goals,” he said. “But they were able to tie the game up on a corner kick. But the girls stuck it out and were able to get some points on the road.”
Freshman adjusting to college game
Freshman forward/midfielder Alisa Velasquez seemingly has made the adjustment to college soccer quite nicely, as the player from Grand Prairie has evolved into the Pioneers’ leader in goals and points through the first half of the season.
Velasquez scored one goal last weekend — TWU’s second goal at Eastern New Mexico — to raise her total to a team-best four. She also has 11 points to lead the Pioneers.
“She works hard and does the simple things right,” Abouzar said. “I think the best is yet to come with her.”