By Brian Roe, Sports Writer
The Wildcats hit the road and lost their first game against a Lone Star Conference South Division opponent Thursday, dropping three of four to Eastern New Mexico, before bouncing back and defeating rival West Texas A&M in a three-game sweep on Saturday.
ACU completed the first ever season-sweep of the Lady Buffs, and the Wildcats remain in first place atop the LSC South Division with a 21-7 overall record and a 6-1 conference record.
The Wildcats went into Portales, N.M., Thursday with a perfect record against LSC South opponents and had defeated Eastern New Mexico in Moody Coliseum on Oct. 2 in a close five-game match. The Lady Zias defeated the Wildcats 30-28, 25-30, 32-30, 30-28 in front of 1,147 EMU fans.
Junior outside hitter Michelle Bernhardt led ACU with a game-high 22 kills and 16 digs. Junior middle blocker Amanda Slate added 16 kills, junior setter Lindsey Martin contributed 54 assists and 14 digs and freshman outside hitter Abbie Lowry chipped in 15 kills.
ACU head coach Brek Horn credits the large crowd for the Lady Zias as one of the deciding factors in the match.
“I think that’s how they won the match to be honest,” Horn said. “Obviously it’s not the only reason, but they won by two Gentry had nine tackles to lead the defense and junior defensive end Clayton Farrell had eight tackles including 3.5 for a loss.
Senior place kicker Eben Nelson had a 44-yard field goal for ACU and Dillon Cobb caught Greg Wiggins’ only touchdown pass from seven yards out early in the third quarter.
The final two games of the season will perhaps be the toughest of the season as they travel to Kingsville to play the No. 2 team in the nation in Texas A&M-Kingsville. Kingsville is currently ranked No. 1 in the region as well.
ACU will finish out its season with a home match up with Midwestern State who is currently 6-2 overall and 3-1 in the LSC South. They are ranked sixth in the regional poll and are in a good spot to make the playoffs.
“I hope the team can find something to play for,” Gaines said. “They are strictly playing now for pride in themselves and pride in the team.”