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Photo courtesy UTEP Volleyball

H-P Sports In Depth: UTEP Volleyball Closes Out Tournament Play at Nike Invitational

The UTEP volleyball team will wrap up tournament play this weekend when it travels to Portland, Ore. to compete in the Nike Invitational September 15-16.

The Miners will meet with Cal St.-Northridge, Portland and Portland State.

After a 2-1 weekend at their own Borderland Invitational, the Miners will look to continue strong play when they open the tournament with a double-header against Cal St.-Northridge (5-4) on Friday at 11 a.m. (MT) and then meet with host Portland (7-2) at 6 p.m.

UTEP will close out the tournament on Sunday against Portland State (6-3) at 12 p.m. (MT).

UTEP grabbed wins last weekend against Samford, when it took down the Bulldogs 3-1, and Delaware State when it recorded its first sweep of the season against the Hornets. Though they battled with Abilene Christian, the Miners fell 3-2 in a thrilling five-set match.

All of the Nike Invitational matches will be played at Chiles Center in Portland, Ore.

LIVE STATS VS CAL ST-NORTHRIDGE   |   LIVE STATS VS PORTLAND

LIVE STREAM VS PORTLAND   |   LIVE STATS VS PORTLAND STATE

Cal State Northridge Scouting Report
Series: Friday’s match will mark the second meeting between Cal St.-Northridge and UTEP. The two last met in 1990, when the Matadors took the game 3-1 at the Nevada Wolf Pack Classic in Reno, Nev.

Matador Notables
California State Northridge is looking for another win after 1-2 mark at the St. Mary’s/USF Challenge including a loss to St. Mary’s on straight sets. The Matadors have a current record of 5-4 and are still undefeated when playing at home. Junior Aeryn Owens, who earned All-Big West first team honors last season, is set to lead the Matadors on offense one more time. Owens recorded 162 kills including a season-best 22 against Portland.

Alongside Owens will be senior Rachel Diaz with 73 kills so far this season. On the defensive side, senior Katie Sato will lead the team once again after starting in all 28 matches her junior year. She has recorded 146 digs including a season-high 26 digs against Pepperdine. Right behind Sato is junior Aeryn Owens who has made huge contributions on the defense with 101 digs so far this season.

PORTLAND Scouting Report
Series: Saturday’s meeting will be the third time the Pilots and Miners clash. Portland holds the all-time series record 2-0. They first met in 2002 at the Nike Pilot Point Preview, where Portland took the match 3-1 in Portland, Ore.

They last met in 2007, when the Miners fell 3-1 at the Nike Portland Invitational.

Pilot Notables
Portland is coming off a 3-0 win over UT Arlington after New Mexico gave the Pilots their second loss of the season at the Lobo Classic. The Pilots, 7-2 this season, are led by junior transfer Reghan Pukis and senior Hannah Troutman who have 145 and 130 kills, respectively. Meanwhile, on the defensive side, freshman Carey Williams has led the Pilots on digs recording 143 already during her first season.

On the net, redshirt sophomore Katie Barker and freshman Liz Reich have taken care on the blocking with 20 and 19 block assists, respectively. Other victories on the season include a 3-1 triumph over Northern Colorado at the Lobo Classic, while also defeating Fresno State 3-1 at the North Harbour Marriott Challenge.

PORTLAND STATE Scouting Report
Series: Portland State has a slight 2-1 edge in the series but the two squads haven’t met since the 2011 season. That most recent match-up resulted in a 3-1 Miners’ victory as part of the El Paso Sports Commission Volleyball Invitational.

Viking Notables
Portland State is off to a 6-3 start for the 2017 season, but it has dropped its past two matches. Caitlin Bettenay leads the attack with 116 kills (3.87 kills per set), hitting at a .246 percentage. Haley Glass has recorded a team-high 99 digs (3.54 digs per set) followed by Bettenay at 78 (2.60 digs per set) and Erin Clarke with 72 (2.32 digs per set).

Headlining the block has been Mikaelyn Sych with 50 total blocks (1.16 blocks per set). Clarke also runs the offense, having compiled 311 sets (10.03 assists per set).

MINERS GRAB TWO WINS IN BORDERLAND INVITATIONAL
UTEP grabbed its first consecutive wins this season when it took down Samford, 3-1, on Friday and swept Delaware State on Saturday. The Miners were aiming to go flawless on the weekend, but dropped a five-set thriller to Abilene Christian.

The last time the team notched consecutive wins was a three-game span from November 3-6, 2016, when they took down Middle Tennessee, UTRGV and Florida International.

HITTING THEIR MARKS
The Miners recorded an impressive .373 hitting percentage against Delaware State last Saturday, and kept their clip above .237 at the weekend’s Borderland Invitational Tournament. The team began with 60 kills at a .250 clip in its 3-1 win over Samford to mark its highest percentage of the season, which was soon crushed by a .373 hitting percentage showing on Saturday’s sweep of the Hornets.

The Miners’ kept their numbers high with a .237 clip from 69 kills in its 3-2 loss against Abilene Christian.

Leading the Miners’ hitting percentage is freshman Mallory Yost, who has recorded a .299 clip in 34 sets. Yost recorded a .200 hitting percentage against Samford, but improved her numbers as the weekend progressed with a .438 showing against Delaware State and a .458 clip against Abilene Christian. The freshman has remained a steady force for the Miners, with her highest hitting percentage being a .615 clip in her collegiate debut against Montana and a .563 hitting percentage against North Dakota.

Killin’ IT
The Miners’ offense was booming against Abilene Christian with five players recording double-digit kills. Macey Austin led the way with 15, followed closely behind by Cheyenne Jones with 14 and Mallory Yost with 13, both season-high numbers for the freshman duo. Yost was hitting at an efficient .458 clip to lead the team and also notched season-high stats in service aces (3) and digs (4) while Jones had a team and season-high five service aces and added six digs. Briana Arellano recorded her first double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs and Kylie Baumgartner rounded out the quintet with a season-high 10 kills and added two block assists.

Double-Double Duo
Outside hitter Briana Arellano and setter Amanda King both recorded a double-double against Abilene Christian. Arellano recorded her first double-double with 11 kills and 10 digs while King had a career and season-high 53 assists and 15 digs against the Wildcats.

CEBAK PLAYING HER ACE
Though she’s already defensive weapon for the Miners, picking up 115 digs (3.29 digs per set) in 35 sets played, libero Niki Cebak is also a threat at the service line. The sophomore has tallied a team-leading 12 service aces on the season, including a game-high three aces against Abilene Christian. She currently ranks 10th in Conference USA in service aces and 10th in kills.

BREAKING INTO CONFERENCE USA RANKINGS
UTEP currently ranks third in Conference USA in service aces with 49 (1.40 per set). Middle Tennessee leads the conference with 64. Individually, Macey Austin ranks eighth in conference in kills with 112 (3.29 per set), Amanda King ranks seventh in assists with 210 (9.13 per set) and Niki Cebak ranks 10th in both service aces with 12 and digs with 115.

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