Rambelles keep Zias in slump

By Mickey Winfield: Freedom New Mexico

PORTALES — First-year Eastern New Mexico University volleyball coach Kim Falkenhagen knows her squad is close to being competitive in the Lone Star Conference. But Falkenhagen and her Zias are getting tired of being close.

The Zias were swept by LSC South Division foe Angelo State on Saturday at Greyhound Arena 30-26, 30-19, 30-28.

“Actually, I thought we were kind of down,” Falkenhagen said. “We could have played a little bit better, a little bit tougher. I think we played with them, (but) we just didn’t capitalize on the things we could have.”

Angelo State (6-10, 4-1 South) opened a 25-17 lead in the first game. The Zias scored nine of the next 13 points, but the Rambelles hung on to win the first game 30-26.

ENMU (3-16, 0-5) bolted to a 4-1 lead in the second game, but the Rambelles quickly regrouped and dominated the rest of the game.

Again, the Zias built a big early lead in the third game at 9-1 before Angelo State went on a 12-4 run to pull even at 13-13. The Rambelles prevailed through a close game to complete the sweep.

Freshman Veronica Valdez led the Zias with 16 kills, while senior outside hitter Randi Egley added six.

Junior Vanessa Wilcox led the defensive charge with two block solos and two block assists, while sophomores Heidi Geyer and Caitlin Murphy each added nine digs.

Three close games, but a three-game sweep by Angelo State led to some frustrated Zias.

“It is (frustrating),” Falkenhagen said. “Because you’re so close, you can see it in sight and if you push a little bit more than you’ll have it, and that’s the frustrating part about it. It’s good to see that it is so close because that means that you can compete with these teams and you can beat them if you work harder.”

“It’s very, very aggravating,” said senior outside hitter Jessie Macknicki, who returned to action after missing the previous two matches with a knee injury. “We just lost our momentum, (and) we weren’t focused.

“It’s just all mental stuff right now, it’s not the physical aspect. We just need to get our brains in the game.”

The Zias, who have lost nine in a row and 14 of their last 15 matches, are trying to stay upbeat as they prepare host rival West Texas A&M in a 7 p.m. matchup on Tuesday.

“We’re all frustrated, but we stay positive,” Macknicki said. “We’re looking to beat West Texas on Tuesday. West Texas is definitely beatable.”