Pioneers outlast Zias in five

Dave Wagner

In his second tour of duty as Eastern New Mexico University’s volleyball coach, Mike Maguire is finding the sledding a bit tough.

The Zias played well in stretches during Thursday’s Lone Star Conference match against Texas Woman’s at Greyhound Arena, but the Pioneers pulled out a 20-25, 25-19, 25-20, 16-25, 15-9 win, scoring the final eight points of the contest.

Playing without middle blocker Jessica King, who suffered an ankle injury in the Zias’ loss at New Mexico Highlands last week, Maguire said he had to sort of stitch a rotation together.

“We made too many mental errors, but we threw that lineup together tonight,” said Maguire, who is now 410-300 overall in 22 seasons at ENMU, dating to 1987. “For a lineup to get thrown together like that, they played real well; I give them credit that they fought.

“But you can’t just fight hard. You’ve got to fight hard and eliminate errors.”

Meantime, Texas Woman’s (7-11, 5-4 LSC) is lodged among several teams trying to make the conference’s six-team, postseason tournament, so it was a big — albeit challenging — win for the Pioneers.

TWU struggled out of the gates and the Zias (4-14, 1-9) controlled much of the first set. The Pioneers came back to win the next two sets, but simply got outplayed by ENMU in the fourth game to force the 15-point tiebreaker.

Coach Shelly Barberee said her team has been up-and-down all season, beating teams near the top of the LSC and losing to others near the bottom.

“Our conference is pretty even, depending on the night,” she said. “Right now, we just want to get the Ws, whether it’s five games with Eastern New Mexico or four with (third-place) Tarleton State.”

Viktorija Jablonska, a 6-foot junior right side hitter from Latvia, was the Pioneers’ go-to player. She finished with 19 kills and five blocks.

She had two kills in the game-ending run, while junior outside hitter Andrea Rivera-Rojas added three of her nine in that time.

Jablonska missed much of the early season with an injury that Barberee declined to specify.

“She’s a good player,” Barberee said. “She has a lot of experience.”

The Zias got strong play from junior outside hitter Amber Durand, with 20 kills and 21 digs, and senior outside hitter Kristen Beck, with 12 kills. Freshman setter Kennedi Catano also had a double-double with 46 assists and 12 digs.

The Zias are back in action at 7 p.m. Saturday in LSC play against Texas A&M-Commerce at Greyhound Arena.