TWU’s philosophy of scoring by committee is paying big dividends for the soccer team — just in time for Friday’s Lone Star Conference opener.
In a three-game homestand last week, the Pioneers (3-3-1) scored a couple of explosive wins and a 1-all tie to prepare them for their LSC opener at West Texas A&M.
Thanks to a 3-1 victory over East Central and a 6-0 pounding of Northwestern Oklahoma State, the Pioneers totaled 10 goals in the three games. TWU has scored 17 goals just seven games into an 18-game regular season.
The Pioneers scored 25 goals all of last season.
“A lot of it has to do with our priorities in practice,” said first-year head coach Babak Abouzar. “We put an emphasis on shooting and scoring goals and where the girls need to be on the field. It’s just their decision-making around the box.
“It’s nice to see their hard work paying off.” he added.
Fourteen players have registered shots for the Pioneers and eight have scored goals. In TWU’s three wins, including a 5-0 shutout of Texas A&M International in the season opener, the Pioneers have outscored their opponents by a 14-1 margin.
“It’s a team effort — everyone is getting involved,” Abouzar said. “We don’t have a go-to player. It’s goals by committee. And that’s nice to know that you don’t have to rely on one person.”
TWU expects tough Lone Star opener
West Texas A&M is 1-3-3, but Abouzar said the Pioneers aren’t fooled by the sub-.500 record.
“They’ve always been a consistent powerhouse in our conference,” Abouzar said. “They’ve played a really hard nonconference schedule, and I know they’ll come out hard. It’s their home opener, and they’re the defending conference champions. They’ll be ready to defend that title.”
The Lady Buffs have played three nationally ranked teams, falling 3-0 to No. 9 Colorado School of Mines and 2-0 to No. 10 Metro State. They battled to a scoreless, double-overtime tie against No. 19 St. Edward’s.
“Last year we played them pretty close,” Abouzar said. “Both games were decided by one goal.”
Following Friday’s game in Canyon, TWU will travel to face Eastern New Mexico in a LSC match Sunday.
Ready for LSC challenge
The Pioneers are facing the bulk of their conference schedule, and coach Shelly Barberee, who has sent her squad up against four ranked opponents, says they are ready for anything they’ll face in Lone Star play.
“With the teams we’ve played in our region, if we’re not prepared for conference now, we’re not going to be,” Barberee said.
Beginning this weekend, 15 of the Pioneers’ final 17 regular-season matches will be against LSC opponents. TWU (9-4, 1-0 LSC) hits the road for matches at Midwestern State on Friday and Cameron on Saturday.
The Pioneers would seem battled-tested after going 2-2 against ranked teams in nonconference play. TWU defeated No. 23 Adams State (3-2) and No. 11 Washburn (3-1) while falling to No. 8 Central Missouri (3-0) and No. 19 Colorado School of Mines 3-0).
Last weekend in their last nonconference action for a while, the Pioneers returned from the Mary Beth Sudduth Invitational with a 3-1 mark that included a four-set win over Washburn on Friday. Later that day, TWU fought to a five-set win over tournament host Arkansas-Fort Smith.
“We had a tough Friday and came out of it with two big wins,” Barberee said. “I think that might have taken something out of us. But to come away from the tournament 3-1, I’m very pleased with that.”
Midwestern State (7-4) and Cameron (4-7) opened conference play last week and each are winless in three league contests.
“We don’t have a dynamic player to rely on this season,” Barberee said. “Every day we’ve got someone stepping up — different people stepping up at different times.
“All in all, the girls are having fun and playing hard,” she said. “You can’t ask for more than that.”
TWU, which has played just one home match, returns to Kitty Magee Arena on Oct. 4 and 8 for conference matches against Texas A&M-Kingsville and Angelo State.
Pioneers sweep awards
After posting a 4-1 record last week, TWU swept the Lone Star Conference weekly awards. Senior Josie Santos was named Offensive Player of the Week, while junior Morgan Wilson was Defensive Player of the Week and junior Kayla Rivero received Setter of the Week honors.
Santos led the Pioneers’ offense with 57 kills while posting a .287 hitting percentage. She recorded a career-high 21 kills against Arkansas-Fort Smith and posted team highs in kills in three of the five matches. Santos had a .440 hitting percentage against A&M-Commerce and hit .395 against UAFS.
Wilson was the leader on defense with a team-best 96 digs (4.80 per set), including 29 against UAFS and 22 against Washburn. She posted 15 or more digs in four of the five matches.
Rivero ran a 6-2 offense and led the team in assists with 127. She posted 20 or more assists in four of the five matches, including 36 against UAFS. Rivero recorded three double-doubles in assists and digs. She earned the weekly honor for the second time this season.
Team earns NFCA award
The 2012-13 TWU softball team ranked eighth among Division II teams in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association all-academic rankings.
The Pioneers compiled a 3.529 team grade-point average during the 2012-13 academic year. The GPA is the best ever by the TWU softball team. The Pioneers ranked first among LSC schools, finishing ahead of Abilene Christian (3.390) and West Texas A&M (3.235).