The TWU gymnastics team appears to be on its way to another big postseason after winning the USA Gymnastics national championship last year. The Pioneers have put together a string of strong performances over the last several weeks and posted a season-high score of 195.575 in a home meet against Iowa on Sunday.
TWU will look to add to its momentum while traveling to Provo, Utah, for a four-way meet against No. 21 BYU, Utah State and Penn State at 8 p.m. Friday.
"Being able to take what we've done the last couple of weeks and carry it into a new environment without our home crowd there is exactly what we're looking to see," TWU coach Lisa Bowerman said. "That's going to be really important for us."
After getting off to a slow start to the year, Bowerman said, the team has produced consistent results in its last four meets dating to Feb. 11. The Pioneers have performed well in high-pressure situations, from overcoming a late deficit to Bridgeport two weeks ago to finishing ahead of Iowa in a meet that was tight from start to finish.
First-place finishes from Brandi Lazarus, Schyler Jones and Alyssa Kelly powered the Pioneers past the Hawkeyes. Lazarus won on vault with a 9.875, while Jones tied for first on floor exercise with a 9.875 and had the top all-around performance with a 39.175.
Kelly tied for first place on balance beam with a 9.875.
"That beam routine for Alyssa is something we all know she's capable of," Bowerman said. "She hit every single thing in that routine, and it was one of the best of her career. The team was beside themselves on the sideline — we're looking for her to build on that."
After competing in Utah, the Pioneers will have one final tuneup against Oklahoma before competing in the Midwest Independent Conference meet. Bowerman said she hopes the team will continue to show the ability to perform well in the pressure-packed moments they've seen this month.
"It's something you want to have all year all the time, but we didn't start off like we wanted to," Bowerman said. "A few weeks ago we started focusing on having consistent attitude, demeanor and attitude to everything — good or bad. It's allowed us to succeed in those high-pressure situations."
Pioneers set for first homestand
Softball season is in full swing, but TWU is just now getting the chance to play in front of its home crowd.
The Pioneers entered the week 10-6 and played in their home opener — a doubleheader against Oklahoma Christian — on Wednesday afternoon. TWU will return to Lone Star Conference play to host Texas A&M-Kingsville in a three-game series this weekend, beginning at 6 p.m. Friday.
Heavy rain over the last few weeks forced changes to the schedule and resulted in a total of five games being canceled with two more being postponed. TWU coach Genny Stidham pointed to the bright side of things, as the field will finally be in good shape for this week's matchups.
"I'm glad the field is looking good, because of all the rain we've had. The guys are out there working hard so it really looks good," Stidham said. "I imagine the girls are excited about finally getting a chance to play in front of their home crowd."
The Pioneers are coming off a record-setting sweep of a struggling Western New Mexico program in which the team outscored the Mustangs 55-14 over four consecutive victories. TWU scored 22 runs in the finale Saturday, setting program records with 24 hits and 22 RBIs.
Jordan Kisselburg put on a show throughout the series and capped it with a five-hit performance in the finale to match the TWU and LSC records for hits in a game.
"We definitely saw improvement at the plate," Stidham said. "We've been telling girls over and over again that they've been doing things well in practice but you should be doing it in the game. They finally started to recognize that."
The Pioneers will attempt to begin a climb in the LSC standings, as the team is in the middle of the pack in seventh place. A&M-Kingsville (13-7, 6-3 LSC) is in fourth place and has won 10 straight games. The Javelinas boast a 5-0 record on the road.
"You have to hope they struggle on the road and that we're playing well," Stidham said. "We need to take some wins from that series to keep our head above the water so we can vie for a postseason berth at the end."