BIRMINGHAM, Al. – UTEP volleyball (2-3, 0-1 C-USA) opened its 2021 spring Conference USA season with a loss to UAB (4-2, 3-0 C-USA) in five sets, 3-2 (19-25, 25-21, 23-25, 19-25, 13-15), Sunday afternoon in Bartow Arena.
Senior outside hitter Cheyenne Jones led the Miners with 16 kills in her first match of the season, hitting at a .441 clip.
Today was the first time UTEP Volleyball Head Coach Ben Wallis’s team had played a set of either in-game or practice competition in nine days due to a mandatory five-day quarantine last week.
“That’s when it hurts you: in execution,” Wallis said. “When you’re just not as sharp. But my team played hard. I’m proud of what we did today not having the ability to play (last week).”
UTEP started slow offensively in the first set, falling into a 10-3 hole.
The Blazers found holes in the Miners’ defense with a .433 hitting percentage while UTEP could only snuff out nine digs in the first set.
Freshman setter Hande Yetis – who made her collegiate debut today – helped spark a 4-0 run midway through the set, assisting on two Jones kills before the Miners ultimately lost the first set, 25-19.
Yetis ended the match with 20 assists and nine digs off the bench while participating in all five sets.
“I thought our setters executed very well,” Wallis said. “(Yetis’s) first college volleyball match was very good for her. She served it pretty tough.”
The Miners trailed 16-15 in the second set when consecutive blocks recorded by Darley – the first a solo – and Darley and Howard helped the team find a rhythm. UTEP proceeded to go on a 7-2 run.
With the score now 22-21 in the Miners’ favor, Jones powered two kills to secure the set victory, 25-21.
In the third set, UAB’s left outside hitters Caroline Stogner and Fernanda Maida combined for nine of their 34 total kills. Stogner gave the Blazers a third-set victory with three consecutive points all coming off kills.
UTEP’s left outside hitters – Serena Patterson, Paulina Perez Rosas and Ava Palm – record only 19 kills between them.
“We just need to be more efficient on the left,” Wallis said. “We need to get bigger kill numbers out there. We can’t beat a really good college volleyball team without good outside hitting.”
The Miners gave themselves a chance in the fourth set to win the match at the service line when Palm dealt two aces, forced a bad set and served up a point which ended with a kill from redshirt sophomore Kenidy Howard. UTEP ended the set on a 9-2 run as junior Kristen Fritsche recorded three consecutive set assists over the Miners’ last four points.
UTEP and UAB traded blows in the fifth set until the Blazers wrestled away the Miner lead, and for good, at 12-11 with a 3-0 run.
OTHER NOTABLE PERFORMERS
Junior libero Hula Crisostomo recorded 32 digs and two kills.
Up next, UTEP volleyball concludes its weekend series with UAB tomorrow at 10 a.m. MT. in Birmingham. The contest will be available for streaming on C-USA.TV.
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.