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Photo courtesy UTEP Volleyball / Twitter

Blazers Slip By Miners 3 – 1

The UTEP volleyball team fell to UAB 3-1 in a Conference USA match on Sunday at Memorial Gym.

The Miners took set one 27-25 but dropped the last three sets 25-21, 25-20, 25-20, to fall to 1-1 in conference play while the Blazers improved to 2-0.

The Miner offense was stopped by the Blazers’ blocking effort, which put up 22 blocks, 18 of which were block assists.

“It was definitely frustrating we weren’t able to play as well as we did on Friday,” head coach Holly Watts said. “I made a few adjustments that we didn’t respond to so I’ll take responsibility for that. We still have the same people out there and we still need to play our best. We didn’t put ourselves in the best spot to win during the course of the game, they [UAB] had a lot of blocks so credit to UAB for that.”

UTEP was still able to get double-digit kills from Macey Austin, who finished the match with 10, while Briana Arellano notched eight of her own. The UTEP defense worked toward 53 digs, with Niki Cebak tallying 18 and Ali Vidali recording 12, and the Miners teamed up for 18 block assists, with Kylie Baumgartner leading the effort with six block assists and three solo blocks.

Amanda King dished out 32 assists and the Miners recorded six total service aces, with Yost and Cebak each recording two.

“We just couldn’t execute like we normally do,” Arellano said. “There were some critical situations that we didn’t capitalize on and that hurt us in the end. We beat ourselves today and we just need to correct our mistakes going into the next game”

Totals for UTEP were 44 kills, 38 assists, 53 digs, and 12 total team blocks while the Blazers recorded 50 kills, 48 assists, 61 digs, eight service aces, and 13 total blocks.

Set one saw the Miners jump out to a 10-6 lead behind four kills, a service ace, and five Blazer errors, to prompt a UAB timeout. The Miners kept the lead before the Blazers benefited from a Miner attack error to tie the set at 17. Austin and UAB’s Erika Zembyla would exchange kills for their respective teams to keep the score at 18-all.

The Miners regrouped after a set error and Baumgartner recorded her first of three solo blocks to again tie the set at 19.

The Blazers would garner a 22-20 lead, but a UAB service error would bring the Miners within one before the Blazers’ Petra Silic recorded a kill to put her team up 23-21 and force a UTEP timeout. Austin recorded a huge kill out of the timeout to creep the Miners within one again, but the Blazers’ Gabby Deshotel brought up set point with a kill of her own. UAB would spoil its own set clinching point with an attack error, and Baumgartner came in huge for the Miners with another solo block to tie the set at 24.

Consecutive attack errors for both teams tied the set at 25, but Austin hammered down another kill to bring set point for the Miners. With the score now 26-25, UAB’s Victoria Young went in for an attack that was stopped by Baumgartner and Arellano teaming up for the block assist, ending the set 27-25 and giving the Miners the 1-0 match advantage.

Sets two and three went to the Blazers 25-21 and 25-20, respectively, and the Miners went into set four trying to prevent a UAB win and force a set five.

The Blazers jumped out to a 3-0 set four lead before Austin stopped the run and put the Miners on the board with a kill. The Miners would go on a 4-0 behind a setter’s dump from King, two consecutive block assists, first from Arellano and Baumgartner, then from Jones and Baumgartner, and an attack error by UAB’s Young, to go up 6-5. A 5-0 Blazer run, however, would give them the lead back before Baumgartner ended the run with a kill to bring the score to 10-7, UAB.

The momentum would stay in UAB’s favor as the Blazers stretched out to a 20-15 lead before another Austin kill breathed life into the Miners. After a timeout, UTEP would begin to make a run behind three consecutive kills, first from Arellano, followed by Jones and Vidali to prompt a UAB timeout with the score now 22-19.

The Blazers’ Deshotel and the Miners’ Jones both recorded kills, but a Miner service error and a UAB service ace ended the set 25-20, and the match 3-1.

“We came out slow,” Baumgartner said. “As a team we didn’t come out ready to go. Our momentum slowed after the first set and we just weren’t able to recover from that point.”

The Miners will look to bounce back when they continue conference play against UTSA on Oct. 1 in San Antonio. First serve against the Roadrunners (3-10 overall, 1-0 C-USA) is set for 11 a.m. (MT).

“I’m still excitied about this team, I think we can do a lot of good things this year,” Watts said. “Our goal is to win all the games at home and hope to pick up a few on the road. We dropped this game but I still see a lot of bright spots coming from this team. We just need to come out and play each game.”

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