By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Kim Falkenhagen wasn’t all that surprised her team was picked 13th out of 13 in the Lone Star Conference’s preseason volleyball poll.
After all, she’s a new coach with a lot of new players on the squad.
“I didn’t expect anything more than that,” said Falkenhagen, hired in February to replace longtime coach Mike Maguire. “With all the new players coming in and where we ended up last year, I didn’t expect anything other than that.”
Nine of the 16 players who are slated to report to today’s opening workouts are new. The Zias went 6-27 last season, including 1-9 in the LSC South.
The league has opted to scrap the divisional format this year, with every school playing once against each of the other 12.
Falkenhagen has experience in the conference, helping West Texas A&M to a 100-8 record as an assistant to Lady Buffs coach Tony Graystone from 2000-02.
“I’m excited,” said Falkenhagen, whose squad opens in a tournament at WT in late August. “I want to get out on the court and see what we’ve got.
“We’re going to be more successful (than the poll suggests). We want to make the conference tournament (top eight) this year; if we go beyond that, it’ll be icing on the cake.”
Cross country — Eric Boll takes over the program after Joel McMullen left for an administrative position at Indiana State.
The first meet will be Aug. 31 at West Texas A&M’s Buffalo Stampede. Boll, also ENMU’s track coach, said his athletes are not scheduled to report until Aug. 20.
“They have to be taking care of their business right now and report in good shape,” said Boll, who relinquished his duties as an assistant football coach to take over cross country. “If they do that, we’ll be all right.
“There’s going to have to be some accountability on the kids’ part.”
The men’s and women’s teams each return about 70 percent of their rosters from last year, many of whom competed for Boll in track. The women’s squad was hurt more by its graduation losses.
“I know most all of these kids,” he said. “I think our men’s team is going to be pretty strong, but I’m sure we have some work to do on the women’s side.”