Perhaps the best part of TWU winning its three-team home gymnastics meet Sunday was not the victory itself, but rather whom the Pioneers topped on the scoreboard.
The margin of victory — TWU’s third consecutive win at home — was less than one point. But it was the fact that the Pioneers outperformed second-place Lindenwood and Centenary, opponents that TWU will face this year at the Midwest Independent Conference championships, that most pleased Pioneers coach Lisa Bowerman.
“It’s a great confidence booster,” Bowerman said. “It was a good start to get those wins under our belts and carry that with us. It’s good and that’s what I told them — take away the fact that we beat those two teams.”
TWU faces another MIC rival this weekend when the Pioneers travel to Illinois-Chicago for a Friday night dual. On Feb. 23, TWU will host MIC squads Southeast Missouri State and Centenary.
“We will have actually seen everybody in our conference except for Illinois State by the time we get to conference,” Bowerman said of the MIC meet, scheduled for March 22 in Normal, Ill.
While the Pioneers edged Lindenwood on Sunday 192.675-192.650, Bowerman sensed a lack of energy in the Pioneers’ performances. Bethany Larimer, however, won her third vault event of the season while Brittany Johnson tied for first on uneven bars, her fourth consecutive victory in the event.
“We looked a little flat,” Bowerman said. “We lacked that look of ease and that look of natural ability and confidence that we had been performing with the last couple of weeks. I think where it started was on our struggle on the vault. Our scores weren’t as high as they’ve been the last few weeks, ... and it took a little wind out of our sails.”
Last week, Larimer was named MIC Specialist of the Week.
Pateraki on roll
It’s been awhile since TWU coach Beth Jillson has seen as strong a performance from one of her players like the one she witnessed last week from junior forward Ria Pateraki.
Using words like “incredible” and “impressive” to describe her effort, Jillson has watched the 6-1 Pateraki put together three straight double-doubles to lead the Pioneers (12-9, 7-4 Lone Star) through a four-game winning streak that has earned TWU a share of second place in the conference standings.
“Three double-doubles in a week is very impressive,” Jillson said. “She’s been very impressive this year. Over the season she’s just gotten better and better.”
Jillson credits several things for Pateraki’s emergence as one of the Pioneers’ dominant players on both ends of the court. In her second season since transferring from Lamar, Pateraki — this week’s LSC Offensive Player of the Week — has grown comfortable with Jillson’s system and is playing more relaxed and aggressively. She also worked during the offseason to improve little areas of her game, like outside footwork to become a more consistent perimeter threat.
In the three games TWU played over six days last week, the Athens, Greece, native scored 16, 19 and 18 points to go with 10, 11 and 11 rebounds in wins over Tarleton State, Cameron and South Dakota School of Mines, respectively. She was 10-of-10 from the free throw line and dished out 10 assists during the three-game stretch.
“One of her stats that has gone up significantly is rebounding,” Jillson said. “She has done a great job on the boards. And her defense has improved tremendously from last year. A big thing is people are keying in on her and she’s seeing some double teams and she’s having to pass out of it, but she’s always been an incredible passer.”
The seventh-year head coach has to go back to her early days at TWU to recall an inside player who has performed as consistently as Pateraki over the past week. Renee Renz, another strong forward who played for Jillson from 2007-09, registered 23 double-doubles during her Pioneer career.
“Ria is very hard on herself and is so competitive — she strives to be perfect,” Jillson said. “I try to get her to smile sometimes. She gets so mad at herself for the mistakes and forgets to celebrate all the great things she does.”
TWU is scheduled to play at Texas A&M-Kingsville at 6 tonight before returning home for a 2 p.m. Saturday game against Angelo State.
TWU will celebrate its former players Saturday when the Pioneers host Alumni Day. The day’s festivities begin at 11:30 a.m. at Kitty Magee Arena with a basketball game between teams of TWU alumnae. During halftime of the Pioneers’ 2 p.m. game against Angelo State, the former players will be recognized in an on-court ceremony. ... Tickets are on sale for the LSC tournament, set for March 5-8 at the Allen Event Center. Fans who buy all-session packages prior to Feb. 26 will receive a $15 discount off the regular price of $60. Adult tickets for individual sessions are priced at $15. Student prices are $32 for all-session tickets and $10 per session. Tickets may be purchased at TWU, at the Allen Event Center box office or through Ticketmaster.
Defense may win championships, but the No. 14 Pioneers’ offense has propelled them to a hot start that continued last weekend with a 3-1 performance at the Desert Stinger Tournament in Las Vegas.
Playing in the second of three consecutive weekend tournaments, TWU improved to 7-3 overall. Only West Texas A&M’s 5-0 start is better than the Pioneers among LSC teams.
Poor weather conditions frequently have forced TWU to conduct practices indoors, where the work has focused mainly on hitting off tees. As a result, TWU’s offense is carrying the load while its defense awaits more time out on the practice field.
Through 10 games, the Pioneers’ offense has accounted for four of seven victories coming via the run rule. Two of the three losses came in extra innings.
“All through our lineup, we’re hitting the ball well,” first-year TWU coach Genny Stidham said Monday. “We’re hitting it firmly throughout the entire lineup. We’ve been inside a lot, and all we’ve done is hit, hit, hit.
“Kendra Sancet is leading us offensively,” Stidham said. “She’s hitting with power and hitting to the opposite field. She’s really hitting the ball well.”
Sancet is hitting .469 while leading the team with five doubles, five home runs, 15 hits and 16 RBIs. She’s second in batting average with teammate Sarah Wittenburg posting 13 hits in 26 at-bats for a .500 average.
TWU returns to the road this weekend for the St. Edward’s Round Robin in Austin. The Pioneers will face Chadron State (1:30 p.m.) and Regis (3:45 p.m.) on Friday, Texas A&M International (1:30 p.m.) on Saturday and Chadron State (1:30 p.m.) and St. Edward’s (3:45 p.m.) on Sunday.
“We’re a little tired right now and we haven’t been able to get the rest time I feel we need,” Stidham said. “But the girls know this is an opportunity to get in a lot of games before conference play begins.”
TWU makes its home debut Feb. 22 against St. Edward’s.