EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — UTEP’s Memorial Gym is rocking like it’s 1966 for the UTEP volleyball team. The Miners taking down rival New Mexico State in five sets (20-25, 32-30, 24-26, 25-22, 15-12) on Sunday for their first win over the Aggies since 2012.
Freshman Ema Uskokovic blasted home a career-high 16 kills, Paulina Perez-Rosas (12 kills, 16 digs) and Serena Patterson (11 kills, 13 digs) each posted double-doubles in the win.
The Aggies had won nine straight in the series and were 21-2 against the Miners since 2004, but UTEP showed grit and determination, down two sets to one, to write a new chapter in the Battle of I-10.
“That was the most stressful match of my life as a head coach,” said UTEP head coach Ben Wallis. “At the end of the day, our cultured helped us win that because our leaders did their job and they got everybody else to believe. That’s from three years of developing them. They decided that they wanted to be different and they put in the work.”
The come-from-behind win caps off a historic weekend for the Miners who knocked off a pair of Power 5 teams (Arizona, Northwestern) on Friday, before bouncing the Aggies on Sunday to move to 6-0 on the season. It’s UTEP’s best start to a season since 2006 when the Miners raced out to an 8-0 start.
“We’ve got a good volleyball team at UTEP, one that I’m proud of to be 6-0 with this schedule,” said Wallis. “They are going to battle and grind. They’re not afraid. They just decided that they wanted to win, and they executed it.”
Alyssa Sianez piled up a match-high 22 digs to lead the way defensively for UTEP. The Miners racked up 11 blocks and outhit the Aggies, .236 to .214. Yasso Amin added nine kills, while Kristen Fritsche (29 assists) and Ryley Frye (20 assists) ran the offense effectively as part of the 6-2 system.
“The fact that we can have each other’s back and pull out a win like that is huge,” said senior outside hitter Serena Patterson. “That is a really tough team, and we were proud to show El Paso and this community that we’re here to win it.”
NMSU was led by Shaney Lipscomb with 14 kills while Victoria Barrett added 12 kills and 10 digs for the double-double. Lia Mosher (11 kills, .429 HT%) and Mari Sharp (10 kills, .435 HT%) were deadly efficient for the Aggies with just two attack errors combined between the two.
“I think we showed real grit today. We were short-handed and had to go small on the pins and put Shaney [Lipscomb] in the middle, which we haven’t practiced,” said NMSU head coach Mike Jordan. “I felt we played well in stretches and were competitive and I’m proud of that. I think that this kind of environment, and competitive games like this one, are where your team grows up and learns and we will be better for it.”
UTEP will now turn their attention to Grand Canyon. The Miners and Antelopes will open play with each other in the Portland State Tournament on Sept. 10.