LAS CRUCES, N.M. – The UTEP volleyball team (4-0) dropped the first two sets to Pacific 12 power Arizona (3-1) before rallying to win three straight for the 3-2 victory (23-25, 22-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-6) in its opening match of the Borderland Invitational inside the Pan-American Center Friday afternoon. It affords the Miners their first win against a power five opponent in 16 years, while also snapping a streak of 20 consecutive losses to such competition. It’s also the first win over at Pac-12 program since 2000 when UTEP bested Oregon.
“I’m still just a little jacked up and I’m excited about our group,” UTEP head coach Ben Wallis said. “We’ve been talking all week about how hard this was going to be, and they listened to me. We have a line-up and a roster that I can make changes with on the fly. I needed to Kennidy Howard in there in the third set, and she was great. She helped us so much with her energy. Kristen (Fritsche) was amazing and I can’t tell you how proud I am of Ryley Frye.”
Serena Patterson (16 kills), Paulina Perez Rosas (14 kills) and Yasso Amin (11 kills) led the charge offensively UTEP, which hit .216 compared to Arizona’s readout of .141. Three different Miners recorded double-digits in digs, with Alyssa Sianez leading the way at 19. Patterson and Perez Rosas both notched 13 for double-doubles. Kristen Fritsche (27) and Ryley Frye (21) directed the offense, with each tallying more than 20 helpers. UTEP also piled up 11 service aces, compared to just three by Arizona.
“You can’t name a person that was out there on the floor and didn’t play well for us,” Wallis said. “That’s the reason that we won. We just kept coming at them. Our service pressure was insane. I’m so proud of them. They just didn’t stop battling. We didn’t stop fighting. We had some calls that didn’t go our way, and they didn’t care. They just kept moving and grinding.”
The two sides traded the first four points before Arizona ripped off four straight points. After UTEP cut it to two (8-6), the Wildcats went out by five (12-7). It remained a five-point deficit (21-16) before the Miners began to make their move.
They went on a blistering 7-1 surge to take their first lead of the set at 23-22. It included back-to-back service aces from freshman Frye. Arizona called timeout and responded with three straight points to claim the set, with the final coming via a rotation infraction to make it 25-23.
UTEP scored three of the first four points to take the early edge at 3-1. Arizona responded and eventually pulled ahead at 17-14 before the Orange and Blue tallied the next three points, including an ace from Ava Palm. The Wildcats tallied the next two points in the match, and would not relinquish the lead from that point. UTEP was able to get within one (19-18), but couldn’t quite pull it out as Arizona held on, 25-22.
The two sides traded points in the third set, with it tied up, 7-7, before three straight points forced an Arizona timeout. The final point in the 3-0 run came on an emphatic block by Ema Uskokovic and Alianza Darley. The Wildcats countered with their own 3-0 push made it 10-10. UTEP struck back by tallying six of the next seven points in the set to vault out by five (16-11). The margin swelled to seven (22-15), and UTEP eventually closed out the set, 25-21, to stay alive in the match.
It was extremely close from the onset of the fourth set, with UTEP holding onto an 11-9 lead after consecutive attack errors from Arizona that led to a timeout for the Wildcats. They roared out of the break with a 6-3 push to put the Miners down, 15-13. The Orange and Blue scored four of the next five points in the set to go back up, 17-16, forcing a second timeout for Arizona. UA had back-to-back points to regain the lead at 19-18, but UTEP closed the set on a 7-3 push to take it, 25-22.
UTEP raced out to a 4-1 advantage in the fifth set. The Miners then extended things to 8-2. Arizona called its second timeout of the set to try to settle it down, but UTEP dashed those hopes by going on a set and match-closing run of 7-4 to wrap up the final set at 15-6.
UTEP has a quick turnaround, battling Northwestern at 7 p.m.