UTEP wins 5-set epic over Weber State to advance to NIVC semifinals


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The biggest match in the history of UTEP volleyball will go down as one of the best the program has ever seen, too.

Playing its first home postseason game ever in the quarterfinals of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC), UTEP defeated Weber State 3-2 in five sets (25-21, 26-28, 25-23, 34-36, 15-9) on Tuesday night in front of nearly 2,100 fans at Memorial Gym.

UTEP (24-7) had never qualified for the postseason before this year; the Miners won two matches away from home last week, so this was just the third postseason game the program has ever seen. They may have been new to the routine, but the Miners looked like seasoned veterans.

“This just isn’t a flash in the pan, we’re going to be really good for a long time,” said UTEP head coach Ben Wallis. “It felt like a real college volleyball game and it should have because that was two really good team beating the crap out of each other for three hours.

The Miners took set one 25-21, rallying from a big deficit to score the final seven points. Set two saw UTEP squander a chance to win leading Weber State 24-23; instead, it was the Wildcats that eventually won set two, 28-26.

Set three was also a back-and-forth affair, with UTEP emerging victorious 25-23 to take a 2-1 lead in the match. However, a titanic battle in set four went the way of Weber State, 36-34, setting up the fifth and deciding set.

The final stanza was much less dramatic than the rest of the match, with UTEP handling Weber State 15-9 to send the Memorial Gym crowd into a frenzy. Paulina Perez-Rosas led UTEP with 20 kills, but it was an all-around effort with five Miners contributing seven kills or more.

With the win, UTEP advances to the NIVC semifinals to play UNLV on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Memorial Gym, with the right to go to the tournament championship on the line. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $5 for UTEP students.

If Tuesday was any indication, expect a big crowd and an epic match.

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