Photo courtesy UTEP
HATTIESBURG, Ms. – Cheyenne Jones led the UTEP volleyball team (11-12, 4-6) over Southern Miss (2-23, 0-10) in five sets (25-21, 25-22, 24-26, 27-29, 15-12), 3-2, with 25 kills on Sunday afternoon at Reed Green Coliseum.
Jones’s 25 kills is a career high for the junior. She was incredibly efficient as well, racking up those kills in just 42 swings for a .476 hitting percentage. The outside hitter also led the team total blocks with six in the five-set epic.
Mallory Yost posted the second-most kills (17) for the Miners, and Alianza Darley followed behind with 11. Erika Sianez came in strong at libero with a team-high 21 digs. Kristen Fritsche tallied 38 assists, and Sophia Chacon added 24 to the effort.
The Miners were in control of the first set from the jump, behind the arm of Jones, who locked in 6 kills in the frame. UTEP held an 18-11 advantage at one point, and eventually claimed the first game, 25-21, to seize early momentum.
The two squads were in a closely combative second set with the score tied at 18-18. The Golden Eagles would take a two-point lead, 20-18, but the Miners would respond to tie it up. UTEP once again let two points slip through their fingers, and once again they responded, taking the next five points to earn the second game, 25-22.
The Orange and Blue found themselves down 19-11 to the home team. The Miners chipped away and chipped away until they finally tied the set up after an ace from Sianez. However, the late rally would come up short, as the Golden Eagles would take the next two points to take the set, 26-24.
Once again UTEP was in a hole late, as it was down 19-13. The Miners went on a 7-1 run that tied the set at 20-20. The two teams saw seven ties after that, and UTEP faced set point on four different occasions. However, the Orange and Blue’s late rally would again come up short, as Southern Miss took the frame, 29-27.
The Orange and Blue came out hot in the fifth set, racing out to an 8-3 lead. Southern Miss made a late push, but Jones put the exclamation point on the day with a match-clinching kill.
“Southern Miss got excited and hot in the third set by just hitting the ball hard and squeaking the ball through our blocks. We have been working hard at the blocking stuff, but we are young as blockers and just don’t understand where our hands need to be sometimes. Blocking is the hardest skill in volleyball to teach, and it is the hardest skill to learn as well. We are young so there will be some ebbs and flows throughout the season as blockers. We knew that their middles were good. They are little, but have great arms. We had a game plan for them, but we didn’t execute it very well. We had to sit a couple of players today, and so we had to put a new lineup out there. This is our seventh or eighth new lineup in the past seven or eight games. We stayed with it though and we concentrated on making plays. We lost two close sets, but when it counted and mattered we outperformed and outscored them. We got some time in there for Sophia (Chacon) another freshman. Alianza Darley we put in the middle for the first time all year, and she got 11 kills on 19 swings and blocked four balls. Really though Cheyenne (Jones) was the big factor. She blocked six balls and had 25 kills. We kept going to her and she kept finding ways to get kills out of system. It was great to have her back. We got a team effort today, so I am proud of my group to get the W today. Erika (Sianez) stepped up as the libero and got 21 digs in about three sets, and helped us get the victory. Kristen (Fritsche) was a monster though. She was great as a teammate and from a leadership standpoint. I don’t know if we win the game if we don’t get a really solid effort from her.”
Next up, the Miners will play home against Middle Tennessee on Friday Nov. 8 at 6 p.m. MT.