Outside hitter Paulina Perez Rosas entered the second set off the bench with thoughts of UTEP’s history versus UTSA in the back of her head.
“My mindset was going hard and physical,” Rosas said. “This is our house and we’ve got to win.”
UTEP volleyball (3-3, 2-1 C-USA) defeated UTSA (3-6, 1-2 C-USA) in four sets (24-26, 25-10, 25-20, 25-23), 3-1, Monday afternoon in Memorial Gym for the program’s first victory against the Roadrunners in over a decade.
“After ten years? There’s no way (we could lose),” Rosas said.
The Miners were serving the ball with the first set point on the line, 24-23, but they surrendered three straight points and faced an uphill climb back into the match down 1-0. Rosas didn’t enter during the first set after connecting for just four kills on 24 attacks in UTEP’s first match against UAB on Feb. 14 and playing in only one set the following day.
But head coach Ben Wallis trusted his gut in the huddle before set two against UTSA.
“I was going to come out and see what it was like with (Alianza Darley) and (Cheyenne Jones) on the right side,” Wallis said. “But I had a feeling in my gut that I was going to go with (Rosas) on the left to move (Serena Patterson over to the right) because (Rosas) just helps us do so many things over there.”
This switch came on the heels of Patterson scoring nine points in the first frame with seven kills at a .636 clip.
“Some people would tell me I’m a fool for taking (Patterson) off the left,” Wallis said.
Rosas picked up her first kill at UTEP’s fourth point into the second set, 4-3. One UTSA point later, she trotted to the service line with the scored knotted, 4-4, and dealt every serve behind an ensuing 9-0 run.
Rosas ended the set 3-for-3 in kills and perfect from the service line as UTEP won with its widest point margin in a set so far this season, 25-10. Meanwhile, Patterson, who was out of position on the left, picked up another five kills to move to 12 total on the day.
“The reason why (Patterson is) one of our leaders is because she knows what’s best for her sometimes is to do what’s best for the team,” Wallis said. “The ability for me to be able to switch her over to the right and take out of system swings over there – which is really hard to do – and get (Rosas) on the floor, it just puts one more athlete out there.”
Patterson said the main benefactor of Wallis’s move was the setter, Kristen Fritsche, who had her most assists in the match, 11, come in the second set.
“I think (the substitution) allowed for us to have a more consistent three passer which allowed for our setters to see the block and get (outside hitters) one-on-one,” Patterson said.
All five of Patterson’s kills in the frame and 16 of her total 19 kills came from the hands of Fritsche. Fritsche ended the match with 36 assists.
“(Fritsche’s sets) was stress-free,” Patterson said. “The ball coming from (Fritsche’s) hands just felt good.”
The Miners hit a combined .545 on 22 swings while UTSA hit -.040 in the frame.
Rosas did most of her damage down the stretch in the third set scoring four of the Miners’ last five points.
UTSA went up 20-16 in the fourth set, on the verge of forcing a fifth, until Kenidy Howard took over. Howard collected three of her 13.5 total points off a solo block making it even, 21-21, and two kills.
“We set (Howard) a few balls that she was up and ready for,” Wallis said. “Our team is built on the pins and for her to put up those points and numbers is huge.
Not listed in the stat sheet was the number and duration of rallies in the final two sets the Miners contended with. Wallis said the win is yet another marker in the progression of his program.
“Not only is it a good win because it’s the first time in over a decade we’ve beaten a team like that, but they are also the type of team, nemesis wise, that really bothers us,” Wallis said. “When teams extend rallies against us… when we get the ball back on our side, we notoriously whack it out of bounds.”
In its opening set loss, UTEP gave away nine points on attack errors.
They had just 10 in the final three sets combined.
Next up, UTEP volleyball goes for its first sweep of UTSA in program history tomorrow at 11 a.m. MT in Memorial Gym.
For complete coverage of UTEP Women’s Volleyball, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @utepvb (Instagram) and @UTEP_VB (Twitter) or click here to visit the official home of UTEP Athletics.
Gallery by Ruben R. Ramirez – El Paso Herald Post