By Eric Butler, Freedom Correspondent
The West Texas A&M volleyball team came in with a seven-match winning streak while ENMU was on an eight-match skid. Recent form held true Tuesday night in Greyhound Arena, as the Lady Buffs took a 30-20, 30-21, 27-30, 30-14 victory over the Zias in a Lone Star Conference-South Division match.
Sophomores Natalie Johnson and Melissa Harper came out firing away in the first game, respectively scoring eight and seven kills as West Texas A&M’s (16-5, 5-0) controlled play.
Switching up lineups for Game 2, Lady Buffs’ coach Tony Graystone let Johnson and Harper take a rest. But West Texas didn’t skip a beat as freshmen Jessica Tuttle and Jamie Lakatos registered five kills apiece. Neither Tuttle or Lakatos got a kill in the first game and, vice-versa, Johnson and Harper didn’t even play in the second.
“We just wanted to get more players involved,” Graystone said. “We just wanted to run a different lineup and get all our hitters some looks.”
“They (Johnson and Harper) got us started; they were awesome. If I can throw the defense off and get the kills, then that’s good for me. As long as I help out a little bit,” said Tuttle, who finished with eight kills in the match.
Harper and Johnson ended with 12 kills apiece to lead all players, while junior Kelly Culley contributed 10 — most of which came in the last two games.
Although Eastern New Mexico (3-16, 0-5) was swept by the Lady Buffs less than two weeks ago, the Zias bounced back to win the third game. That game victory snapped a 16-game losing streak to West Texas A&M, which had won the last four matches between the two rivals in sweeps.
The Zias were led by senior Randi Egley’s 11 kills while freshman Veronica Valdez added 10. Valdez and current West Texas frosh Cherilyn McMenamy were teammates at Canyon High last year — a motivating factor, according to Valdez.
“When we played in high school, we had competition on the team. Now we have even more competition being rivals,” Valdez said.
“Taking a game from the 17th-ranked team in the nation is always a good feeling. In that last game, we didn’t continue our momentum and get it done.”
ENMU came out flat in the fourth game and fell behind when West Texas scored four straight points to break a 7-7 tie. That kicked off a 14-4 run that put the Lady Buffs in commanding position.
Behind 21-11, Eastern then went on a five-point run itself – one, as it turned out, that was mostly for naught. A tip for a point by freshman setter Grace Brandt forced a West Texas sideout and ENMU then got four straight points off the serve of libero Heidi Geyer to make the score 21-16.
Coming out of a timeout, officials ruled Geyer was out of rotation during the run. The resulting call nullified the Zia run and put the Buffs up 22-12.
“The libero had started serving for one player, and then she served for another player who she normally serves for in the rotation,” ENMU coach Kim Falkenhagen said. “It was just a mistake, but the scorer’s table didn’t catch it until four points into it.”
Lone Star Conference South
West Texas A&M 3, ENMU 1
West Texas A&M 30 30 27 30
ENMU 20 21 30 14
Kills — West Texas A&M, Melissa Harper 12, Natalie Johnson 12, Jessica Tuttle 8. Eastern New Mexico, Randi Egley 11, Veronica Valdez 10, Jessie Macknicki 6. Block solos — West Texas A&M, Kelly Culley 1, Harper 1. Eastern New Mexico, Egley 2, Vanessa Wildox 2. Block assists — West Texas A&M, Culley 2, four tied with 1. Eastern New Mexico, four tied with 1. Digs — West Texas A&M, Sara Contreras 22, Laura Prinsen 16, Alyssa Bromwell 11. Eastern New Mexico, Caitlin Murphy 16, Heidi Geyer 15, Valdez 12, Grace Brandt 12, Macknicki 10. Aces — West Texas A&M, Katie Rickwartz 2, Prinsen 1. Eastern New Mexico, Valdez 2, Brandt 1, Murphy 1. Assists — West Texas A&M, Rickwartz 31, Teresa Dunn 13. Eastern New Mexico, Karen McIntyre 18, Brandt 13. Records — West Texas A&M 17-5 (6-0), Eastern New Mexico 3-17 (0-6). T — 2:00. A —320.