By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
Letting a quick 9-1 lead get away in Thursday night’s first game didn’t bode well for Eastern New Mexico University’s volleyball team.
Undaunted, the Zias bounced back with a solid performance the rest of the way to beat Angelo State 33-35, 30-17, 30-23, 30-20 in a Lone Star Conference South Division clash at Greyhound Arena.
Senior middle blocker Lindsay Schiely had 23 kills and junior middle blocker Grace George added 15 kills and eight total blocks for the Zias (8-18, 3-6 South), who are enduring their first losing campaign since 1988 — coach Mike Maguire’s second season.
ENMU closes its season with a 2 p.m. home outing on Saturday against Abilene Christian, which extended its winning streak to 26 matches after an 0-3 start and clinched the South title with a five-game victory Thursday at West Texas A&M.
Schiely, who helped the Zias reach the NCAA regional finals last year, said she wants to go out in a blaze of glory.
“I was excited coming into the (match),” said Schiely, who had only two errors on 40 attacks. “You can’t get down about your losses. Even though we can’t go to the (LSC) tournament, we can end the season on a good note.”
Angelo State didn’t overtake the Zias in the first game until the end, but the last-place Rambelles (9-22, 1-8) couldn’t build on it.
Outside hitter Lindsay Hulling, the team’s lone senior, and sophomore middle blocker Mallory Honeycutt collected 18 kills apiece for Angelo.
“We got fortunate in the first game; it could’ve gone either way,” Rambelles coach Ruth Lawanson said. “We’re just young and we’re having a hard time staying with it.
“We had five seniors (graduate) last year. This is just a group that hasn’t played together a whole lot.”
The Zias never trailed in the second and fourth games, and pulled away in the third game after taking the lead for good 8-7.
“I think we just picked it up,” George said. “We just had fun, and played together better.
“It’s been a rough season. This win kind of helps build our egos up a little.”
The Zias’ passing and setting picked up as the match went, and neither George nor Schiely missed many opportunities.
“Grace had an awesome effort tonight,” Schiely said. “She’s a great athlete, and I’m just glad she’s on my side.”
Maguire said the Zias didn’t do anything special to turn things around.
“They came out and worked and corrected things, and it was nice to see,” he said of his players. “We played better defense starting in the third game. We put up some blocks tonight, and that helped a lot.”