By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
PORTALES — Once again, the Eastern New Mexico University Zias showed they know what to do in the abbreviated fifth game of a volleyball match.
ENMU won for the 10th time in 11 fifth games over the past two seasons — including 3-0 this year — by edging New Mexico Highlands 27-30, 30-21, 28-30, 30-22, 15-9 Tuesday night at Greyhound Arena.
While a five-gamer is usually easy for the crowd to get into, it’s not something the players do by design.
“We shouldn’t have made (Highlands) look as good as we did,” senior middle blocker Emilie Rodman said. “We didn’t play up to our best.”
ENMU coach Mike Maguire agreed with that assessment. While he admires his team’s never-give-up attitude, he said the Zias sometimes just make it hard on themselves.
“I’m concerned because we’re not playing with a lot of intensity and we’re not playing that smart,” said McGuire, whose team completed a three-game sweep at home and improved to 5-2 for the season.
Highlands (2-6) dominated the first game, but nearly let it get away late. Then the Zias nearly put a 13-point lead in jeopardy in Game 2 before three Cowgirls service errors killed any hopes of a comeback.
“I thought both teams were kind of playing back and forth,” Highlands coach Tom Duke said. “But Eastern stepped it up in the fifth game.”
The Zias forced a fifth game by taking control early in Game 4. Senior Anna Bellum had one attack dug up, then came back to finish the point for a 29-21 lead, then got the last point with a tip shot over Highlands’ block attempt.
The fifth game was tied when Highlands committed four consecutive attack errors, sending the Zias in front 11-7. Rodman helped finish it off by converting a couple of backsets from Margie Goble for points.
“That right side (where she attacked) doesn’t normally get set a whole lot,” Rodman explained, “so when we do that the defense is sometimes caught out of position.”
Bellum led four Zias in double figures in kills with 20. Junior Lindsay Schiely added 16 kills and 10 block assists, while senior libero Jessica Weeks had 26 digs.