By Dave Wagner
EASTERN NEW MEXICO UNIVERSITY made it official on Monday when president Steven Gamble announced that the school will add men’s soccer as a varsity sport for the 2004-05 school year.
“We have made an effort in the past couple of years to add sports that are of interest to student-athletes in our region, will attract new students to ENMU and will be exciting for our fans,” Gamble said. “We are confident that men’s soccer meets all of those criteria.”
The program will be a charter member of the new men’s Southwest Soccer Conference, along with three other Lone Star Conference schools (Midwestern State, Northeastern State and West Texas A&M), three from the Heartland Conference (Incarnate Word, St. Edward’s and St. Mary’s) and one from the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (Missouri Southern).
Travis McCorkle, coach of the first-year women’s soccer program, also will handle men’s head coaching duties. The school plans to hire a men’s assistant before the end of the fall semester.
“I’m encouraged by the university’s support of soccer, and I know we’ll recruit many talented student-athletes between now and next fall,” McCorkle said. “Coaching both teams will be a difficult task, but I’m ready for the challenge.”
ENMU will have 15 varsity sports with the addition of men’s soccer — 13 competing in NCAA Division II and men’s and women’s rodeo competing in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.
ENMU JUMPED INTO THE NO. 19 spot in the D2Football.Com Top 25 this week after Saturday’s 32-2 thrashing of East Central at Greyhound Stadium.
The Greyhounds are 4-0 for the third year in a row, but old nemesis Abilene Christian awaits on the road this week in the LSC South Division opener for both teams. The Wildcats (1-2) have spoiled ENMU’s perfect marks in each of the last two seasons, and have won the last four meetings overall.
Coming off an open date, ACU has had an extra week to get ready for Eastern.
“I think it helps them; it doesn’t help us,” ENMU coach Bud Elliott said. “Our offense is different (to prepare for) than anyone else’s in the conference.
“Our players are aware of (the losing streak against ACU). I don’t have to say anything. We just need to make sure we continue to play better, and play a good field position game.”
EASTERN’S VOLLEYBALL TEAM is off to an uncharacteristically slow start (5-9) heading into today’s 7 p.m. match against NAIA nationally-ranked Lubbock Christian at Greyhound Arena, only the Zias’ second home outing of the season.
It’s the first of four home contests in eight days, and will be the Zias’ final tuneup for the start of LSC South play on Friday night against Tarleton State.
ENMU’s only returning regulars, senior outside hitters Margie Goble and Anya Mack, are both injured. Goble is out for the season after knee surgery, and Mack has seen only limited time due to a hip problem.
“We’ve made some steps in the right direction, but we haven’t been able to sustain it,” coach Mike Maguire said. “We’re still kind of struggling, so until they really work together, it’s going to be like this.”
ENMU hasn’t had a losing record since 1988 — Maguire’s second season at the helm — and the Zias have their work cut out trying to extend that streak.
“We’re in a different mode right now,” Maguire said. “If (the players) make the commitment to it, they’ll do fine. But we’re going to have to show a lot more heart and fight to do well in the conference.”