EL PASO, Texas – The UTEP volleyball team (6-7) closed out non-conference play with a 3-0 (25-16, 25-22, 26-24) sweep over UTRGV (11-4) Monday evening at Memorial Gym.
Sara Pustahija led the squad with a career-high of 16 kills, while Torrance Lovesee followed with two career-highs of 14 kills while hitting .522. Hande Yetis (25) and Mattie Gantt (17) combined to put up 42 assists for the Miners and Hula Crisostomo had a team-high 18 digs.
UTEP held the statistical advantage in kills (52-24), blocks (10-5), and hitting percentage (.345-.097). Both teams recorded three service aces.
“I felt fulfilled in a lot of ways tonight because they just got back to working and grinding and playing with a chip on their shoulder,” head coach Ben Wallis said. “We’ve lost the competitive chip on her shoulder until the night is the first time I’ve seen my team compete really hard for long stretches. Sarah Cruz (UTRGV) has been hitting well near .300 on the year and she’s probably going to be an All-American and she hit .000 tonight and they took it personally. And that’s how this young team is going to have to play for the rest of the year; they have to take it personally.”
The Miners got off to a hot start to begin the match driving up an 11-3 lead that consisted of seven kills. The Miners kept an open lead keeping a minimum six-point advantage over the Vaqueros. UTRGV’s last minute three-point rally at set point, 24-16, was a little too late as Lovesee shut it down to win the set, 25-16. The Miners outhit the Vaqueros .417 – .200.
UTRGV got out to a quick 7-4 lead in set two before the Miners tied it up, 7-7, on a kill by Marian Ovalle. UTEP had a 5-2 scoring run to take the lead, 16-14. The Vaqueros had a 4-0 run of their own to jump ahead by two, 19-17, but the Miners were able to tie up the set twice and produce a 5-1 run to take a 2-0 advantage in the match, 25-22. The Miners outhit the Vaqueros .424 – .286.
The third set consisted of 12 tied scores and five lead changes as the Miners looked to earn a sweep and the Vaqueros pushed to force a fourth set. UTEP led the set 3-1, but UTRGV jumped to take a 7-6 lead. UTRGV whipped out an 8-1 run to put the squad up 17-12, but the Miners answered back with a 10-3 spurt to regain the lead, 22-20. UTEP approached match point on a kill by Pustahija, but two UTEP errors tied up the match for the Vaqueros, 24-24. A kill by Weaver and an error by UTRGV won the match for UTEP, 26-24, snapping UTRGV’s 11-game win streak.
UTEP opens Conference USA play on Friday (Sep. 23) at 5 p.m. at FIU.