The Wildcats faced some of the toughest competition of the season when they played in the Colorado Premier Challenge last Friday and Saturday in Denver, Colo.
The squad went 1-3 in the tournament which featured a win against No. 21 Colorado School of Mines and losses to powerhouse University of Tampa, No. 11 Cal State San Bernardino and No. 10 Metropolitan State University.
The ‘Cats were shutout by Tampa 3-0 (25-17, 25-10, 25-22) in their first match of the tournament. The team rallied back in the second match however, and defeated Colorado School of Mines 3-1 (26-24, 25-19, 20-25, 25-21).
ACU was unable to carry that momentum into the second day, as it lost 3-2 (21-25, 23-25, 25-14, 25-17, 15-10) to Cal State and 3-0 (25-15, 25-12, 25-16) to Metro State.
Head coach Kellen Mock said the scores do not tell the whole story about the matches.
“We played better against Tampa than the score showed,” she said. “They were an outstanding team. The School of Mines win was big for us. It showed that we can compete on that level. That was the highlight of the weekend for us.”
“The San Bernardino match showed we still have some cracks in places we really need to work on,” Mock said. “We struggled to score more against these teams than I expected us to.”
Sophomore middle blocker Sara Oxford also saw some things that need to be fine tuned.
“We definitely need to work on some things, but I think we worked well together as a team,” she said. “We’re starting to mesh a lot better.”
“Playing better teams helps us get more experience and helps us to focus on the little things we can do to work around our weaknesses,” Oxford said.
The Wildcats are currently 3-5 overall and have yet to play a home match. The team begins Lone Star Conference play this weekend at West Texas A&M University before traveling to Eastern New Mexico University on Saturday.
The ‘Cats looked as though they were going to cruise past San Bernardino after jumping out to a 2-0 lead, but the Coyotes mustered together three straight winning sets and claimed the victory.
“I think we started to get frustrated with each other in those last three sets,” Oxford said. “We stopped talking and stopped doing the things we really needed to work on.”
“We fought back in the first two sets,” Mock said. “Sometimes when you fight from behind you get a false sense of confidence that you can come back and before you know it you’ve dug yourself in too deep of a hole to climb out of.”
Freshman outside hitter Jennie Loerch and Oxford both put up big numbers this weekend. Loerch smashed 18 kills against the Coyotes and recorded 10 kills and seven digs against Metro State.
“Jennie is cool and confident on the floor,” Mock said. “Her court demeanor rarely changes. She is this consistent all the time and is someone we can rely on.”
Oxford had 17 kills in the Colorado School of Mines contest to go along with nine kills against Tampa and 10 kills versus San Bernardino.
“I think I can still work on a lot of things including meshing better with the freshman players, but I think I did well overall,” she said.
The WTAMU match this weekend starts at 7 p.m., while the Zias match-up begins at 7 p.m. (MT).