ENMU survives Pioneers

Anna Bellum tries to get a kill past Wayland Baptist’s Keitha Tyler during the first game of Tuesday’s match at Greyhound Arena. Photo by Kevin Wilson

By Dave Wagner

PORTALES — The Eastern New Mexico University volleyball team won Tuesday night, but coach Mike Maguire wasn’t impressed.
Seemingly on their way to an easy victory over Wayland Baptist after a first-game rout, the Zias ended up with a major fight on their hands before bailing out a 30-18, 28-30, 27-30, 30-21, 15-13 win over the Pioneers at Greyhound Arena.
Anna Bellum had 21 kills, Emilie Rodman added 18 kills and four aces and Kelley McGinty contributed 17 kills and 14 digs for Eastern.
ENMU (16-14) clinched a 15th consecutive winning season under Maguire in its regular-season finale, but the Pioneers (16-16) had them on the ropes much of the way.
“It’s a textbook example of taking a team too lightly, and that’s exactly what we did,” Maguire said. “Give Wayland credit for taking advantage of that, but I’m extremely disappointed with our effort.”
The Pioneers came out slow in the first game. ENMU scored the first six points and never let WBU get closer than five in cruising to a one-game lead.
But the Zias never really got back to their early level of play. After losing the next two, they didn’t pull away until late in game 4 and then struggled to finish it in a fifth game in which neither team led by more than two points.
Eastern took the lead for good in the fifth game at 10-9 when Portales freshman Kristen VanWettering and McGinty combined to block WBU’s Amy Rice. The winning point came when Rice tipped a ball wide.
Despite that miscue, Rice’s 17 kills led four Pioneers in double figures in that category.
WBU coach Kristee Turpin, whose team is second to Lubbock Christian in the Sooner Conference and ends its regular season at home against the Lady Chaps on Thursday, said her team has picked up its play of late.
“We struggled in the middle of the season, but about two weeks ago we finally found a spark,” Turpin said.
She said her team simply “knew what they needed to do” after its first-game debacle. “We got more aggressive at the net with our hitting and blocking, and with our digging.”