By Jared Fields, Sports Editor
The Wildcats enter Friday’s match with a 27-match winning streak. While winning seems to be old hat for the team now, this success was new just a year ago.
Last year marked the first time the Wildcats advanced past their own conference and into the regional tournament.
Besides making the regional tournament, the Wildcats had never won an LSC title either. However, after accomplishing both feats last year, this year’s team seems more confident, or at least knows what to expect.
Between planning a trip for more than two dozen people to travel to regionals and the pressures of preparing for such a big tournament, head coach Brek Horn said last year’s trip was overwhelming at times. But now Horn said she is more confident and prepared.
“I’m better prepared for what this year is going to be like because of last year,” Horn said. “This year we’re going, I know we’re going … so that makes it easier.”
Even though the Wildcats are a lock to make the regional tournament, team members say they are still focused on the Lone Star Conference Tournament this weekend.
The Wildcats first game will come against the winner between Texas Woman’s and Texas A&M-Kingsville. ACU has beaten both teams during the regular season this year, and all other teams in the tournament. Horn knows this, but doesn’t want her team to think it means this weekend will be easy.
“We’re not even thinking about, ‘well we beat this team or that team,'” Horn said. “I know that’s at the back of your mind, but at the same time we’re trying to prepare to play well and win this tournament.”
Senior setter Lindsey Martin said she knows her team is going to regionals but must remain focused on this weekend.
“Before we could think about our goals for regionals we have to say, ‘so far we’ve met all our goals for the season and we still have this weekend to finish strong,'” Martin said. “We have to keep our mind focused in.”
To keep their minds focused, the Wildcats will savor playing in Moody Coliseum after being on the road since Oct. 20. For Martin and three other seniors, the tournament will be their last chance to play in front of the home fans.
“We try not to think about it,” Martin said about the seniors’ final games in Moody. “All four of us try not to think about it.”
The four seniors are Martin, outside hitter Michelle Bernhardt, middle blocker Amanda Slate and rightside hitter Ashlee Motola. The four seniors have put up impressive numbers at ACU in their careers.
Marting surpassed the 5,000 assists mark, and Bernhardt topped 2,000 career kills earlier in the year, becoming the first tandem to play beside each other in LSC history. Last year, Slate became the first Wildcat voted first team all-Southwest Region, LSC South Division MVP and LSC Post-Season Tournament MVP. Motola finished the 2004 season with a .266 hitting percentage and earned honorable mention all-LSC South Division honors.
Horn said while this weekend will be the final time for her seniors to play in Moody, she thinks that this will be a great end to their playing careers.
“I am confident that we are going to win this weekend, we’re going to be in front of our home crowd ,and that’s going to be an awesome end to their career, to win a conference title here in Moody,” Horn said. “That part is sad because we’ll miss them, but at the same time they’ve helped build the program that the younger kids are going to have to carry on, and that’s going to be the fun part.”
The “fun part” is still a year away, so for now the Wildcats will relish the postseason and the opportunity to play at home.
“(Tuesday) I walked into Moody and it just feels real good,” Horn said. “We think we’re going to have a nice crowd on Friday night, and so we’re just real thrilled to be home, not crawling onto a bus.”