The UTEP volleyball team (12-12, 5-6) defeated Middle Tennessee (12-14, 5-6) in four sets (25-22, 25-16, 15-25, 25-15), 3-1, Friday evening at Memorial Gym.
The Miners ended Middle Tennessee’s five-match winning streak in dominating fashion on their home court. The two teams are now tied for seventh place in the Conference-USA standings, with UTEP owning the head-to-head tiebreaker.
UTEP’s middle blockers, Mallory Yost and Kenidy Howard, were unstoppable for the Miners.
Yost posted 11 kills on a .429 hitting clip, and Howard added eight kills on an even more efficient .533 hitting percentage. Howard also led the squad with five total blocks, two of which being solos.
Cheyenne Jones turned in another strong outing for the Orange and Blue. The junior tallied a team-high 13 kills in just 26 swings. Erika Sianez was strong at the libero position, racking up 13 digs and making crisp passes to her setters.
Syenna Masaki set the tone for the offense with 25 assists.
UTEP was all over the Blue Raiders in the first two sets of the match. It saw accurate passes and sets that led to strong kills from the outsides and middles.
At the net, Howard and Yost were huge, but Anamarija Mikovic also added to the stifling defense with five blocks of her own.
The first frame was locked up at 20-20, but the Miners pulled away, outscoring Middle Tennessee 5-2 to take the set. UTEP took a two-set advantage, after a convincing 25-16 victory in the second game.
The Blue Raiders got back on the right track in the third set, winning by a score of 25-15. However, this would be short lived as the Orange and Blue would dominate the fourth frame. Izela Alvarez capped off the victory from the service line, serving rocket after rocket until the match was won, 25-15, by the Miners.
“Really proud of my group. That is one of the hottest teams in the conference. They have won five out of their last five conference matches. They have been playing great. We did a lot from the service line to bother them,” Head Coach Ben Wallis said. “That is the best passing team in the conference by a lot. They pass it better than everybody. We really won this game from the service line. It helped with our attitude and defensive temperament.”
“We didn’t block as well as I would have liked, but we blocked it well enough to win. Some of our attackers didn’t really have it going their way tonight, but Mallory (Yost) and Kenidy (Howard) were really good. I don’t think Middle Tennessee expected us to set our middles as much as we did. Cheyenne (Jones) was great again. She was really solid out-of-system when we needed her. Zel (Alvarez) was great there at the end from the service line. She was rocketing bullets back there, and when you get a kid going like that, you feel pretty good about winning the match. That is a good Middle Tennesse team, and we earned our ability to get into seventh place right now. I am proud of our victory tonight over a really good team,” Wallis added.
Friday’s win marks the most conference victories in a season for UTEP since 2016. Next up, the Miners will play at home against North Texas on Sunday Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. MT.