EL PASO, Texas – The UTEP volleyball team (5-0) swept Big 10 program Northwestern (1-3), 3-0 (30-28, 25-16, 25-19) to cap a historic day of action at the Borderland Invitational Friday evening.
The Miners, who rallied past Pac-12 foe Arizona, 3-2, earlier on the day in Las Cruces, N.M., have for the first time picked up two Power Five wins on the same day. UTEP also secured its first victory over a Big 10 opponent in school history, posted the initial home win against a Power Five program since 1995 and notched its first sweep over a Power Five school since 1985.
“I’m just really proud of my group to be able to turnaround in less than two and a half hours,” UTEP head coach Ben Wallis said. “We knocked off a Pac-12 team that’s really good and then sweep a Big 10 team who is a little beat up physically, but so are we. We just were so good all day from the service line and with reception. Serena Patterson was a monster today. She was hyper focused, super competitive.”
UTEP hit .238 while holding Northwestern to .096, with that figure impacted by 11.0 total blocks compared to just six from the Wildcats. Serena Patterson led the charge with 10 kills on 24 swings, with Paulina Perez Rosas (nine kills), Ema Uskokovic (seven) and Yasso Amin (five) also getting after it.
Six different Miners recorded at least three digs, with Alyssa Sianez leading the charge with nine. Freshman Ryley Frye (16 assists) and Kristen Fritsche (15 assists) kept UTEP’s offense in rhythm.
It was an epic first set, with the teams trading points and runs. There were countless ties before Northwestern forged a 24-23 advantage. UTEP fought off the set point, the first of five set points it would overcome. The Miners finally took the lead at 29-28 and wrapped it up at 30-28 with consecutive aces from Sianez to win the exhilarating set. They were two of 10 aces on the day for UTEP, compared to just two for Northwestern.
“I just knew we were going to pull it (the first set) out,” Wallis said. “We’ve got a bunch of grinders. I’m just really proud of them.”
UTEP trailed 5-1 in the second set, but it roared back in the form of a set-clinching 24-15 run the rest of the way to take the 2-0 lead in the match. Northwestern called a couple of timeouts during the surge, but it was to no avail.
The Miners jumped out to the early 3-1 lead in the third set and eventually pushed it out to seven (17-10) after an attack error from the visitors. Northwestern tried to rally, cutting it to two (19-17), but UTEP was determined to put the Big 10 foe away. The Miners scored six of the final eight points to complete the sweep at 25-19.
UTEP will look for its second straight tournament crown when it plays host to I-10 rival NM State at 1 p.m. MT Sunday.