It’s not Halloween yet, but one team traditionally has haunted TWU over the years, and it happened again over the weekend when the Pioneers came out on the short end of a battle against West Texas A&M.
The No. 9 Lady Buffs held off the Pioneers with a three-set sweep in Canyon on Saturday. The loss marked the 10th consecutive defeat that TWU has endured when facing West Texas — a streak dating to the 2007 season. Whether facing the Lady Buffs at home or on the road, the outcome hasn’t changed in six-plus seasons.
“Sometimes you have a team built up in your head, and then once you beat them you realize they’re not that big of a deal,” TWU coach Shelly Barberee said. “We haven’t had that initial win over West Texas and so we haven’t gotten over them mentally.”
TWU certainly isn’t alone in having troubles with West Texas. The Lady Buffs program has been built into an annual contender for Lone Star Conference supremacy. The school’s championship trophies and national rankings attest to the lofty status the program has earned.
Last week’s sweep by the Lady Buffs was their first time to blank the Pioneers since 2009. Last year TWU fell in two meetings by 3-1 scores, and in 2011 TWU fought to 3-2 losses in the schools’ two matches that season.
“They’ve got the tradition, the rankings and all the accolades,” Barberee said. “To them, we’re no big deal when we play. But to us, they’re a big deal. This year we were ready to play; I just think we made some anxious errors because we wanted it so much.
“They really didn’t beat us physically as much as they beat us mentally.”
TWU remains in the thick of the LSC race, alone in the second place and in front of the two teams the Pioneers will visit this week — third-place Tarleton State (7 p.m. Friday) and fourth-place Angelo State (2 p.m. Saturday).
Sweeps are a mindset
Four of the last six victories by the Pioneers have been three-set sweeps, which Barbaree credits to a mindset her team has exhibited for much of this season: Win the opening set and win two more as quickly as possible.
On Friday, the Pioneers notched their second straight sweep, blowing past Eastern New Mexico 25-13, 25-21, 25-17.
“We talk about it all the time,” she said. “When you’ve played a lot of games and most of them have been on the road like we have, you want to win and get home. The way we look at it, the quicker we win the quicker we get home.”
TWU split its two matches over the weekend to slip to 13-6 overall and 5-2 in the Lone Star Conference.
Rivero named Lone Star setter of the week
TWU junior Kayla Rivero has been named Lone Star Conference setter of the week for Oct. 8-14. She earned the honor for the third time this season and fourth in her career.
Rivero helped the Pioneers to 2-1 record last week, including an upset win over No. 10 Angelo State. She ran a 6-2 offense and led the team with 55 assists. Rivero had 19 assists against ASU on Oct. 8, then added 17 assists and 14 digs at Eastern New Mexico on Friday. She posted 19 assists against West Texas A&M on Saturday.
On the season, Rivero is the team leader with 365 assists and has recorded seven double-doubles via assists and digs.
Shutout loss adds to trend
Friday’s shutout loss to Texas A&M-Commerce reflects a troubling trend the Pioneers have found themselves in over the last several weeks.
The 2-0 defeat dropped the Pioneers to 4-7-2 overall and 1-3-1 in Lone Star play, and continues a pattern of having difficulty finishing plays, scoring goals and taking enough shots.
TWU’s last five losses have been by shutout, dating back to a 1-0 loss at Central Oklahoma on Sept. 15 in the fifth game of the season. Since then, the Pioneers have been held scoreless against Dallas Baptist (3-0), West Texas A&M (1-0), Midwestern State (1-0) and the Lions.
The Pioneers failed to register a single shot attempt in getting outshot by Dallas Baptist 22-0. In the five shutout losses combined, TWU has been outshot 78-35.
In the LSC, the Pioneers rank fifth out of six teams in shots (146) and shots on goal (71).
Making matters more frustrating for TWU is the fact that the team ranks first in the conference in goals (21). When the Pioneers do score, the goals are coming from a trio of players who sit among the conference’s top 10 in goals: Alisa Velasquez (fifth with four goals) and Gabrielle Larson and Emily Davila, who are tired for seventh with three scores.
The Pioneers will try to reverse the trend this weekend with their final two regular-season road games, at Angelo State (4 p.m. Friday) and Midwestern State (1 p.m. Sunday).