CHARLOTTE, N.C.- An impressive set three victory would prevent a sweep, but the UTEP Volleyball Team could not hold on as Charlotte took the four set Conference USA match victory at the Halton Arena in Charlotte, N.C. on Friday.
The 49ers commanded the first two sets 25-10, 25-11, but the Miners would not go down without a fight, taking set three 25-23. Charlotte would prevail, however, with a 25-13 set four win to take the match 3-1.
Due to the incoming Tropical Storm Nate, UTEP’s match against Southern Miss, originally set for Sunday at 11 a.m. (MT) in Hattiesburg, MS, has been postponed.
“We just couldn’t get it going consistently tonight,” head coach Holly Watts said. “Charlotte made it very difficult the first two sets.”
The Miner offense was once again paced by sophomore outside hitter Macey Austin, who notched 13 kills and the team’s only solo block.
Cheyenne Jones and Kylie Baumgartner followed suit with nine and eight kills, respectively. Baumgartner was hitting at an impressive .545 clip in her effort. Ali Vidali also put together a nice offensive performance with seven kills, all of which came in set three. Sahara Martinez manned the assist duties, leading the team with 26 while Amanda King contributed 16.
Defensively, Ashley Grzebeniak paced the Miners with 12 digs while Abby Adams added eight of her own. Other than Austin’s solo block, the Miners saw Maddie Morgan notched two block assists while Jones and Vidali added one apiece.
In total, UTEP knocked down 45 kills while recording 44 assists, 52 digs and three total blocks while Charlotte put together 53 kills, 49 assists, four service aces, 58 digs and, as expected as the league’s leader in blocks, 26 block assists and one solo block for 14 total blocks.
The Niners dominated the first two sets, but the Miners would regroup after the ten minute intermission for a thrilling set three victory. The Miners jumped out to a quick 3-0 set lead behind kills by Austin and Vidali and an attack error by Charlotte.
That run was answered by the Niners with a run of their own, garnering three unanswered points from back-to-back kills by Tatyana Thomas and Janell Sparks and a service ace to tie the set at three. The two teams would tie three times before Charlotte began to pull away for an 11-7 lead.
The pesky Miner squad stayed persistent, capitalizing on three 49er errors and getting a kill by Maddie Morgan to knot the set up at 11. A back-and-forth effort would ensue by both teams, tying seven times after matching each other’s kills and errors, before Charlotte’s Kaylyn Torain found the hardwood with a kill and Morgan’s attack was blocked for the 49er’s 20-18 lead.
The Miners would have an answer in Baumgartner’s kill after a Niner attack error to again tie the match at 20. Sydney Rowan’s kill would hype the home crowd, but Austin would throw a kill of her own down with authority to silence the celebration at 21-all. Martinez’s serve would go into the net, but Baumgartner evened things up at 22 with her fourth kill of the set.
Charlotte would regain momentum after a block, prompting a UTEP timeout. Out of the timeout, Vidali came in huge for the Miners with consecutive kills to bring up set point and force Charlotte’s first timeout of the match. UTEP would remained unfazed, as Jones’ power-hit was shanked off the Niner’s defense and into the Halton Arena stands to end set three 25-23 and keep the Miners alive.
Set four saw two ties, but Charlotte’s offensive effort and defensive effort at the net proved too much for the Miners, as the 49ers jumped from a 2-2 tie to a 19-10 lead, forcing a UTEP timeout. Austin would show promise with a kill, but four unanswered points by the 49ers would balloon their lead to 23-11 before another Austin kill would stop the run.
Charlotte’s Rowan would notch another kill, which was again answered by Austin, but the Niners would remained unshaken, taking the set 25-13 behind Spark’s 19th kill and the match 3-1.
“A few people received opportunities to play tonight that don’t play often,” Watts said. “They took advantage, winning the third set, but we were unable today to push it to five [sets].”
The Miners will return to El Paso to prepare for their Oct. 13 match against North Texas in Memorial Gym. First serve against the Mean Green is 6 p.m. (MT).