EL PASO, Texas Sophomore Sara Pustahija blasted home a career-high zero-error .591 attack percentage with 13 kills on 22 attacks to help UTEP Volleyball (4-0) defeat San Francisco, 3-1 (25-13, 13-25, 25-14, 25-18), Thursday evening in Memorial Gym.
Alianza Darley and Kaya Weaver put up big blocks against the Dons. Weaver tied her personal best 10 blocks, while Darley met her career-best of eight blocks that consisted of seven assisted lifting her to rank second on the all-time UTEP career block assists leaderboard with 307 just behind Cynthia Ruelas-Macias’ 464.
Behind Pustahija’s match-high 13 kills, Kalia Kohler and Hande Yetis combined for 34 assists while Alyssa Sianez recorded 14 digs.
UTEP’s all-around performance held the statistical advantage in kills (47-34), team blocks (18-5), hitting percentage (.282 – .065), while both teams racked up five service.
SET ONE | UTEP picked up an 11-4 lead early in the first set after three straight blocks. San Francisco had two 2-point scoring runs but were held off as the Miners knocked out four consecutive points to win the set, 25-13.
SET TWO | The Dons turned the tables on the Miners winning the second set 25-13 as well. USF utilized a big 8-1 scoring run, more than doubling the score 23-10. UTEP put up three more blocks before the Dons smacked one last kill to seal the set and even the match.
SET THREE |The third set mimicked the opener as UTEP jumped to an 11-4 lead once again. UTEP had two big scoring runs to pull ahead 22-8, however, the Dons responded with their own 5-0 run to close in on the Miners 22-13. UTEP slapped on two more kills and took advantage of a San Francisco error to take the 25-14 set win and the 2-1 match advantage.
SET FOUR | Pressure was in the air in the final set as it consisted of six tied scores and one lead change. San Francisco held on to the lead until a block by Sakira LaCour and Darley snatched the lead at 13-12. The Dons knotted the set at 13-13 but the Miners took off with a 6-2 run to pull ahead. Darley and Pustahija slammed down two last kills and an ace by Kohler secured the match win, 25-18.
Final Thoughts from Coach Wallis
“We got pushed around in the second set because we lost our identity from the service line. We’re physical, we’re athletic, we’re a good blocking team, but in the second set we just started guessing and USF got hot and excited. We got nasty from the service line other than the second set. We beat a really good team on our home floor in front of a really good home crowd. It is the most important thing for us to play at home in front of our Memorial Maniacs because it means a lot to us. So excited for our first win at home but now we have to turn our attention to Arizona State. ASU is big and physical. We are big enough and physical enough to go against them, but it’s all about the execution, and they have been executing it well – it will be their first match of the weekend. We hope our crowd follows us up to Las Cruces and gets a chance to cheer us on.”
The Borderland Invitational continues as UTEP takes on Arizona State on Friday, Sep. 1, at the Pan American Center in Las Cruces, N.M. at 4 p.m. MT.