The UTEP volleyball team (4-19, 1-10 C-USA) fell to Rice (19-4, 10-0 C-USA) in five sets (25-23, 25-19, 17-25, 25-27, 10-15), on Sunday afternoon at Memorial Gym.
Macey Austin and Cheyenne Jones paced the Miners with 16 kills each. Serena Patterson added 11 kills to the effort. Setter Kristen Fritsche locked in a double-double (48 assists & 16 digs), along with Macey Austin who produced 18 digs, and Patterson with 12. Briana Bustillos led the squad with 21 digs from the libero position. At the net, Jones dominated with six total blocks, and Mallory Yost notched four total blocks. Freshman Martine Kragholm produced seven kills and two total blocks.
UTEP started out on fire in the first set, scoring the first five points of the match, highlighted by a block assist from Jones and Yost. The Miners would build on the early momentum extending the lead to 14-7 and forcing an Owl timeout. Rice would battle back attempting to keep their 11-set winning streak alive by tying the score at 21-21. Ultimately, Austin’s offensive prowess made the difference as she notched the set point off a kill into the Owl defense, 25-23. The Miners had a staggering .311 hitting percentage for the set, behind a combined 12 kills from Kragholm, Patterson and Jones and Fritsche’s 14 assists.
In the second set, with the score tied at 2-2, UTEP tallied a 3-0 run giving them confidence on their home court. The Owls would recover, tying the set at 9-9, but from that point on the Orange and Blue would never relinquish the lead again taking the set 25-19, and putting Rice’s undefeated-conference record on the line. Austin helped UTEP receive the set victory by registering a double-double (10 kills & 14 digs).
The Owls would respond to the 2-0 set deficit by registering a wire-to-wire victory over the Miners in the third set, 25-17.
The fourth set began with UTEP scoring the first three points, behind two kills from Austin. The Miners would maintain this lead all the way up until the Owls were forced to take a timeout while being down 21-17. The Orange and Blue forced set point, 24-22, pushing the Owls backs against the wall. Rice refused to cave in tying the set at 24-24, and ultimately besting UTEP 27-25, to force a deciding fifth set.
The Owls had only been taken to five sets four times all season, and had only dropped the first two sets of a match two times this year.
Rice’s will to keep its 13-match winning streak alive was prevalent as the Owls took the set, in decisive fashion, 15-10.
>> Macey Austin recorded her seventh double-double of the season
>> Kristen Fritsche registered her third 45 plus assists and 15 plus digs performance of her career
>> Fritsche locked in her 750th assist of her career
>> UTEP snapped the Owls 11-set winning streak
The Miners will play under the lights of Memorial Gym on Senior Day against Charlotte (15-12, 6-4 C-USA) on Sunday at 12 p.m. MT. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for kids. For more information about the team day program call the UTEP marketing department at (915) 747-6065.