@LATechSB Travels to UTEP with League Title on the Line
May 3, 2018
EL PASO, Texas -- When Louisiana Tech made the four-hour bus ride home from Denton, Texas, on March 25, there was no chatter, laughter or smiles.
There wasn't anything to smile about.
Following a three-game sweep at the hands of the Mean Green, head coach Mark Montgomery and Co. slid to 4-5 in Conference USA play.
The defending league tournament champions and preseason pick to win the Conference USA regular season title were reeling from the haymaker thrown by the Mean Green.
It had been one of those weekends where if something could have gone wrong, it did. Some of it was self-inflicted. In fact a lot of it was.
Some of it wasn't.
But the bottom line was the Lady Techsters (33-18, 15-6) were at a key juncture in their season.
"I was asked earlier today if there was a turning point in the season," said Montgomery earlier this week when meeting with the local media. "I think the North Texas series was it. The nice thing was I didn't have to have a tough talk with the team after that series. I did not have to scream or practice them harder. I did not have to motivate them and make them see that we did not play close to our capabilities. The players saw it, and they knew it.
"They weren't happy with that performance. In fact, a lot of our girls from that area were downright embarrassed. We knew we were better than that. I did not have to make speeches or get them motivated to finish the season stronger. They did that on their own, and I think that is a mark of a great team. They realized what work needed to be done, and they rolled up their sleeves.
"I remember coming to practice the first day after the North Texas series, and there were 10 or 12 players already at the field an hour early working on things on their own. That showed me we had something special, and this group wanted it. Things have really started to click since then for this team, and it is because of the hard work they are putting in each-and-every day. We've been playing awfully well since that weekend."
Awfully well might not adequately describe the post-North Texas series version of the Lady Techsters. Tech has won 17 of 18 games since that abysmal weekend, outscoring its opponents 117-41. The Lady Techsters won 13 straight games after the North Texas series before dropping one to UAB. Tech has won its last four.
"I think it was a bit of a setback, but we knew the next practice we had to get things done and it had to be right then," said junior pitcher Preslee Gallaway, who personally has gone 9-0 in the circle since her last loss in Denton. "We couldn't have another off day. We knew what needed to do, what needed to get solved at that point of the season. You are going to have setbacks during a season; those times where you are going to fail. But those need to happen in order for you to get better. I think in the long-run (the North Texas) series was good for the team."
Not only are the Lady Techsters 17-1 in the last six weeks, but LA Tech has posted an 11-1 record in Conference USA games. Tech enters the final weekend of the regular season sitting in first place in the league standings and needing to win two of three games against UTEP in order to clinch the program's first ever regular season title.
"We have put ourselves in a good situation," said Montgomery. "We still have to go out there and execute and play in a tough environment against a dangerous team. It is not easy to play in El Paso. They have a winning record (12-6) at home, and they have won all but one conference series at home. Certainly, we realize our work is cut out for us. The team is playing really well. They are confident, and they believe in what we have done all season long. I feel like they will come out ready to play."
While Louisiana Tech will be battling for the league title this weekend, UTEP (18-31, 7-14) will be trying to play its way into the Conference USA Tournament, which starts Wednesday in Charlotte. The Miners must sweep the Lady Techsters and still get help in two other series that are out of UTEP's control. UTEP needs FIU to sweep WKU in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and have Charlotte take at least two out of three against Southern Miss.
Two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum but both with plenty to play for will collide Saturday at Helen of Troy Field for a 3 p.m. CT doubleheader and Sunday for a single game at 1 p.m. CT. All three games can be seen with a paid subscription to CUSATV.com or heard on the Louisiana Tech X mobile app (FREE).
Bottom line is Louisiana Tech knows it controls its own destiny and is one weekend away from possibly accomplishing one of its team goals for the season.
"We have to go in there, and we have to do our job," said Gallaway. "It's one pitch at a time, one at bat at a time, one play at a time, one out at a time. Everybody has to be playing their best and give everything they have. We have all worked this entire season to be in this position at the end of the year. This weekend we just have to get the job done."
Tech heads back to the state where the crux of its season started and is two wins away from earning its second league title -- its first regular season crown -- in two years.
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