By Dave Wagner
West Texas A&M’s Lone Star Conference volleyball winning streak lives on. Barely.
The Lady Buffs won their NCAA Division II record 77th consecutive match against conference opponents, dating to the 1998 LSC tournament, by bailing out a 30-28, 26-30, 30-28, 30-28 win over scrappy Eastern New Mexico University Tuesday night at Greyhound Arena.
WT (17-5, 3-0 LSC South) took advantage of ENMU miscues late in the third and fourth games to extend its current winning streak to nine matches and take over sole possession of the division lead from the Zias (7-11, 2-1).
“It’s what we expect when we come out here,” WT coach Tony Graystone said after his squad overcame deficits of four points in the first game and seven points in the fourth. “When you start four freshmen who’ve never played a WT-Eastern match, they don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Freshman middle blocker Ambra Clark came up with 23 kills for the Lady Buffs. Freshmen outside hitters Jessica Scherr and Rachel Altman added 16 and 14, respectively.
“We had to use our outsides more than we wanted to tonight,” Graystone said. “Those are two freshmen, and they came through for us tonight.”
Eastern held a 17-13 lead in the first game before WT rallied back, taking the lead for good on a kill by Scherr and holding off the Zias at the end.
The second game was close until a service error by Cynthia Carter and a WT misplay put the Zias up 23-19. Two kills by freshman Grace George opened a five-point lead, and ENMU junior Anna Bellum’s kill closed it out to square the match.
WT led most of the way in the third game, but fell behind 5-0 at the start of the fourth. Eastern eventually led 16-9 and 19-13 before Clark’s kill started a seven-point WT run.
The Zias regained a 23-20 led as Bellum recorded two kills, but WT took the lead for good 27-26 on a putaway by Clark.
Emilie Rodman’s kill on a Jennifer Bullock quick-set made it 29-28, but WT wrapped it up on a kill by Scherr.
ENMU had nine service errors in the match, including three each at the end of the third and fourth games.
“We made mistakes and missed some key serves late,” said ENMU coach Mike Maguire, whose team has sometimes come close but hasn’t beaten the Lady Buffs since 1995. “But I thought it was really a good effort.
“I thought we were in striking distance every game. With a break here or there, we could’ve won.”
Bellum collected 23 kills and 19 digs for the Zias. Rodman had 16 kills, George added 13 kills and four block assists and McGinty had 10 kills and a team-high 20 digs. Bullock was credited with 59 assists.
“I thought Grace George really worked hard out there with all those blocks,” Maguire said. “She got a piece of the ball a lot.”