TWU outblocked the top blocking team in NCAA Division II in No. 6 West Texas A&M, but the Pioneers were unable to limit the few mistakes they did have as they lost a close four-set match — 16-25, 25-18, 25-23, 25-23 — on Friday night at Kitty Magee Arena.
“Obviously, they keep the ball in play,” TWU head coach Shelly Barberee said of the Lady Buffs. “Their libero is a great player, but I think we blocked better than they did tonight and they’re the No. 1 blocking team in the nation. Yeah, we had some misfires and some missed calls and that cost us set three. We should have had it; we were up on them. Then we came back in set four and I think we should have had that also. It was just a couple plays, and in the game of volleyball, that will cost you the match. Not to mention, I think the officials cost us about 10 plays.”
The Pioneers (20-9, 10-5 Lone Star Conference), the No. 4 blocking team in the nation, came into Friday’s match riding a six-game winning streak complete with sweeps in each match, but West Texas (27-3, 15-0) put an end to that.
Senior Marclea Alves’s 16 kills were the high mark for TWU, while senior Chloe’ Tate added 14 and senior Josie Santos had 11. Lexi Davis’ 14 kills led West Texas.
The Lady Buffs had no answer for Tate in the first set, as she was the offensive spark plug for the Pioneers with seven kills while adding two blocks on defense.
TWU finished on a 6-2 spree to claim the first set, but the Lady Buffs came right back to win the second set in which they had a match-high .333 hitting percentage.
Then came the all-important third set as Alves’ kill gave the Pioneers a six-point lead at 19-13. But West Texas rallied at the end with an 8-2 spurt, with the Pioneers committing an error on set point.
“Overall, I can’t say we played a bad game,” Barberee said. “We didn’t. We played a good game. We had some errors. Marcela Alvez played a fantastic game. At times, we got a little timid because we made an error and then we made two errors. And with this team you can’t play timid; you have to hit the ball. They’re good at finding our weaknesses, and they played off our weakness a lot. I think we hurt ourselves just as much as they hurt us.”
In the fourth set, neither team could carve out more than a three-point lead. West Texas had a 20-17 advantage, but TWU answered with two kills from Alvez and a block from junior Jaqueline Santos to tie it up. With the score again even at 23, the Lady Buffs sent the Pioneers packing with a kill from the top blocks leader in the nation, Laura Iwuchukwu, and a slim TWU miss down the left sideline.
“I don’t think that this was a disappointment,” Barberee said. “They’re going to be the No. 1 team in our region, and they’re No. 1 team in our conference, and we just proved that we could beat that team. We didn’t in the end, but we played until the final point of the match. They didn’t blow us away. They had to play ball tonight.”