Although not at the halfway point of the 2012 season, there are plenty of good statistical numbers the TWU soccer team are putting up, with the most important being its 3-1 record in Lone Star Conference play.
Also, the team’s 4-3-1 overall mark is a vast improvement from a year ago, and the fact that TWU has outscored opponents by a 17-12 margin through its eight games reflects a new style of attack that has resulted in the above-.500 record.
But there are two more numbers that show the balance and talent evolving on this year’s squad. After last weekend’s home wins over Angelo State and Incarnate Word, there are now 10 players who have scored goals for the Pioneers and 13 players who have registered points this season.
“Our depth has been a key for us,” head coach Fleur Benatar said. “We’ve got a lot of people on the team and they can play. And if somebody is not doing the job, somebody else is there to step up and play.
“You have to have the right people and they’ve got to understand their roles. And the girls have done that. They like each other, they have fun together and now we’re playing well together.”
Senior forward Brittany Martin notched her team-leading sixth goal of the season in Friday’s 3-2 win over Incarnate Word and continues to rank second in the LSC in goals, shots and points.
But in both games, TWU received offensive input from first-time contributors. On Friday, sophomore Candice Davies scored her first goal of the season. Then, on Sunday, junior transfer Marile Parra netted her first goal in a TWU uniform, while freshman midfielder Sara Alvarez booted in her first collegiate goal.
“We’ve got new personnel and we’re trying new things this year,” Benatar said. “And it’s been a lot more fun. It’s working like it should; what’s been applied is being carried through.”
TWU remains at home this week and looks to extend its three-game win streak with a game against Abilene Christian on Friday (7:30 p.m.) and a Sunday contest against Midwestern State (2 p.m.).
True freshmen Cecily Martinez and Ryleigh Spivey have secured starting jobs with the Pioneers and become two of the team’s surprises thus far this season.
“I really didn’t count on them starting back in the preseason,” Benatar said. “I had them in the mix but not starting. But Ryleigh is very fast and can run for a long time. And Cecily has got an unbelievable leg. She’s a tremendous kicker.”
Both newcomers have played in all eight games, with Spivey drawing seven starts and Martinez six.
Valuable lessons learned
Going from worst to first in the opponents they faced last weekend, the Pioneers learned some valuable lessons that could pay dividends throughout the rest of the season.
On Friday, TWU swept last-place Eastern New Mexico in a 3-0 romp in which the Pioneers (10-3, 4-1) never eased up on their aggressive attack style and kept the pressure on throughout the 65-minute sweep.
Less than 24 hours later, the Pioneers faced the No. 6 team in the country and gained some confidence despite a 3-1 loss to West Texas A&M that TWU head coach Shelly Barberee believes proved to her players that they’re ready to compete on that level.
“I wasn’t disappointed in the way we played and that sounds crazy,” she said. “I think we played a good match. It’s just that we made some errors that we shouldn’t have made.
“Do we have the talent this year to beat them? Yes, we do,” Barberee added. “Did we make some errors that probably cost us the match? Yes, we did. But that happens. The good thing is we get to play them again.”
TWU’s play that so thoroughly dominated Eastern New Mexico briefly carried over to Saturday, when the Pioneers opened the game with a 25-18 victory in the first set. It was only the second time all season the Lady Buffs had dropped the first set of a match. In the season opener against Adams State, West Texas A&M lost the first set and went on to lose 3-1. The Buffs have won 12 straight matches since.
“This team knows it can win,” Barberee said of her Pioneers. “They were frustrated and mad; we all were. It was good to see the disappointment on their faces because if you learn from it, you’ve learned a lesson.”
The Pioneers’ only losses this season have come on the second day of back-to-back matches.
Saturday’s loss to West Texas A&M came after the Pioneers defeated Eastern New Mexico on Friday. Three weeks ago in a tournament at Colorado Mesa University, TWU defeated Fort Hays State and Western State College on that Friday before dropping matches to Grand Canyon and Colorado Mesa the next day.
“It’s very difficult to play on Friday and Saturday,” Barberee said. “Last week, we prepared for Eastern New Mexico and then we had to turn right around and play the No. 6 team in the nation. And we matched them in all of the statistical categories except for errors.”
Unfortunately, for the Pioneers, their schedule includes six more Friday-Saturday matches.
Wilson earns LSC honor
Sophomore libero Morgan Wilson was named Lone Star Conference volleyball defensive player of the week. She earned the honor for the first time this season and second time in her career.
Wilson helped the Pioneers to 2-1 record last week. She was the leader on defense with a team-best 56 digs, including a game-high 20 against ENMU and a game-high 28 against No. 6 West Texas A&M. For the season, she has 183 digs and currently ranks eighth in the Lone Star Conference.