A desire to become more aggressive offensively has paid dividends for TWU’s fast-improving soccer team.
The Pioneers split their two road matches over the weekend, improving to 2-3-1 on the season and opening Lone Star Conference action at 1-1. Notching a 2-1 win at Eastern New Mexico on Friday was particularly pleasing to head coach Fleur Benatar, whose team won only one game last season.
“It’s a big deal,” she said. “Any win is a step in the right direction, and scoring goals is a big step in the right direction.”
TWU has scored at least one goal in five games this season, and the Pioneers are beating their opponents in the three key offensive statistics: scoring, shots and shots on goal. TWU holds a 12-9 edge over opponents in goals and has outshot its opponents 117-81. In shots on goal, the Pioneers have posted a 56-37 edge.
Senior forward Brittany Martin scored one goal against Eastern New Mexico — her third consecutive game with a goal — and leads TWU with five goals and 12 points. Meanwhile, the Pioneers received goals from junior Meredith Molge, her first of the season, and freshman Haleigh Wanzer, who connected for her first career score.
“Brittany is our main threat, and she brings another dimension to us,” Benatar said. “She’s playing with more confidence and understands what’s at stake this year as a senior and how to attack our opponents.”
Benatar also has been impressed with the play of junior transfer Lindsey Sisco, who was the goalkeeper for both weekend games, and her all-freshman defensive line of Erin Bolinger, Sara Deeb, Ryleigh Spivey and Cecily Martinez.
“All four of the freshmen act like they’re seniors,” Benatar said. “They’re playing all 90 minutes and really contributing.”
TWU plays hosts to Incarnate Word at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Angelo State at 2 p.m. Sunday in LSC games.
Pioneers to hold clinic
A free, one-hour youth soccer clinic will be given by the Pioneers immediately following their home game Sunday against Angelo State.
The clinic, for boys and girls in eighth grade and below, will offer instruction from Benatar, her coaching staff and members of the team.
“We’ve put on these clinics for the last several years, and they just keep getting bigger and better,” Benatar said. “This is a great opportunity to receive instruction from collegiate players and coaches.”
Registration for the clinic will be held at a table near the field entrance and all participants must have a waiver completed by a parent or guardian. All clinic participants will receive free admission to the game. Waiver forms are available at www.twuathletics.com. More information is available by contacting Jeff Bowerman at 940-898-2385 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Depth on display
The Pioneers’ depth was on display over the weekend as TWU opened conference play with a pair of road victories to improve to 8-2 overall.
While senior Viktorija Jablonska continued to dominate with her third triple-double of the season in a win over Incarnate Word, there were plenty of others making valuable contributions.
Junior Chloe’ Tate led Friday’s win over Texas A&M-Kingsville with 13 kills and came back two days later with 11 against Incarnate Word. The Ryan graduate was named the LSC’s player of the week Tuesday.
Junior Josie Santos also came up big with 11 kills against the Javelinas and 15 against UIW.
Many of those kills were set up by sophomore setter Kayla Rivero, who registered 28 assists in each match.
“We’re deeper than we think we’ve ever been,” head coach Shelly Barberee said. “We always talk about our hitters, but Kayla has done a phenomenal job for us so far, as has [libero] Morgan Wilson. She’s up there in the conference in digs per set.
“Kayla has stepped up a little bit this year and done a great job,” Barberee added. “And she’s getting the ball to the hitter that it needs to go to. You can have all the offense in the world, but if you don’t have a setter to set them up, it’s no good.”
TWU facing tough stretch
The Pioneers find themselves halfway through the toughest portion of their schedule, a stretch of 12 of 14 games on the road. TWU will play two home games this weekend and will close out the regular season with seven straight home games.
On Tuesday, the Pioneers played at Texas A&M-Commerce — their seventh consecutive road test — but will play host to Eastern New Mexico at 5 p.m. Friday and West Texas A&M at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Barberee prefers to look at the positive side of the quirky schedule.
“At the end of the season, that’s what really counts,” she said. “That’s when everyone is fighting for everything, and we’re home. That’s when most teams are tired from the season and we’ll be home.
“Come three weeks and we’ll be through it,” she said. “We’ll be dragging and mentally and physically exhausted, but we won’t have to travel. We’ll be home.”
Jablonska registered a career-high 19 digs against UIW. ... Freshman Torie Talkington saw her first extended action against the Cardinals and wound up with 15 digs.
Annual events slated
Two annual fall events scheduled by the TWU softball team — the faculty/staff game and the Hit-A-Thon fundraiser — will be held Oct. 5 at Pioneer Field.
Scheduled for 3 p.m., the third faculty/staff game pits employees of TWU in a scrimmage against the Pioneers softball team. Admission is free.
Immediately following the game, the Pioneers will conduct their third annual Hit-A-Thon, a home run derby in which the total distance of hits by selected members of the team will be calculated. Sponsors of the event will donate an agreed amount per foot for the average distance of each player’s longest homer.
TWU players and coaches are soliciting sponsors, and interested individuals or businesses can e-mail head coach Richie Bruister at email@example.com for more information.