PORTALES — Eastern New Mexico University nearly threw a monkey wrench into the Lone Star Conference volleyball race Saturday afternoon.
The Zias, coming off a win the night before over College of the Southwest which snapped a 14-match losing streak, went toe-to-toe with Central Oklahoma before losing to the Bronchos 30-27, 30-27, 30-24 in an LSC clash at Greyhound Arena.
The Bronchos (24-5, 7-1 LSC) were coming off a three-game rout by West Texas A&M on Thursday night in a battle for the conference lead. In this one, they had all they could do to put ENMU away.
There were 30 ties and 13 lead changes in the match, and the Zias (4-22, 0-9) never trailed by more than six points until late in the third game.
Sophomore outside hitter Kelsey Reynolds had 17 kills for Central Oklahoma, while sophomore setter Carolyn O’Connor collected nine kills and a match-high 18 digs.
The Zias, meantime, got 15 kills and five block assists from senior outside hitter Randi Egley and nine kills and 14 digs from freshman outside hitter Veronica Valdez.
ENMU went on an 11-3 run to erase a 15-9 deficit and take a two-point lead in the first game. The Bronchos went in front for good 28-27 on a kill by junior outside hitter Mari Araujo, and finished the game on two Zias attack errors.
An ace by junior libero Nicole Vanderploeg staked ENMU to an early 6-2 lead in the second game. The Zias opened a 15-12 lead at one point, but the Bronchos broke out of a 27-27 tie with the final three points, including kills by O’Connor and sophomore setter Meaghan Wedberg.
Central Oklahoma then fashioned a 13-2 run in the third game to erase a 16-12 Zias advantage. ENMU never got closer than five points after that.
The Zias take their final road trip of the season this week, traveling to Cameron on Thursday and Midwestern State on Saturday for LSC clashes. They finish the season at home on Nov. 1 against Southwestern Oklahoma.