Zias closing in on first playoff berth

By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers

With two weeks left in the Lone Star Conference’s regular season, Eastern New Mexico University’s women have their eyes squarely on an LSC postseason tournament berth.

ENMU (10-5, 3-2 LSC) is tied for third in the 10-team league with four matches left. The Zias will need at least one and possibly two wins to lock up a spot in the six-team tourney for the first time in the program’s three-year history.

“Nothing is guaranteed at this point,” coach Travis McCorkle said. “I think one (win) would get us in, but two would certainly be better.”

The Zias missed a golden opportunity to all but cement a berth on Sunday when they lost to Northeastern State 1-0 at Tahlequah, Okla., on a goal with just over two minutes left in regulation. That snapped a school-record five-match winning streak.

“It was a disappointing loss, but we just have to take it and move on,” said junior forward Megan Dozier, who posted a hat trick in Friday’s 4-0 victory at East Central that set a school record for wins. “I think we’re more focused this year, and it’s helping. We’re focused on winning one game at a time and scoring one goal at a time.

“When you try to look too far ahead, you lose your focus.”
Eastern hosts second-place Central Oklahoma (10-3-1, 4-0-1) on Friday and Southwestern Oklahoma on Sunday.

The Zias earned a No. 8 ranking last week in the Midwest Region, McCorkle said, a standing which probably will be hurt by Sunday’s loss. The top four teams in the region move into NCAA postseason play.

Still, there’s time to move up.

“It’s very disappointing,” McCorkle said of the loss to Northeastern (6-8-1, 2-4-1). “We could’ve been 4-1 (in the division) and put ourselves in great position. We could have changed our focus from getting into the conference tournament to worrying about seeding.

“But right now, we’ve just got to get ready to play Central Oklahoma.”

Junior forward Anna Funck said the LSC has been topsy-turvy this season, noting that almost anybody can win on a given day.

“I feel pretty good about where we are,” she said. “Hopefully, this Friday we can come out and refocus. If we do, we should be fine.”

Dozier, from Midland, Texas, and Funck, from Amarillo, are two of three players who have been active since the program started in 2003.

Funck, who has a team-high seven goals this season, said the Zias are gradually becoming a deeper team.

“It seems every year we’re getting stronger and finding (more) players we can rely on,” she said.