UTEP – Gantt, Price Break Career-Highs Versus South Dakota

UTEP – Senior Vittoria Price and freshman Mattie Gantt leveled up their game, breaking career-highs in the highly competitive three-hour five-set match against South Dakota Saturday morning in Memorial Gym.

Story via UTEP Athletics

Price recorded 24 attacks, previously 23 versus Portland State, and Gantt posted 27 assists, previously 21 versus the Vikings as well. 

The UTEP volleyball team dropped its final match in the Borderland Invitational to South Dakota by the closest of margins, 20-25, 25-21, 25-21, 25-19, 15-17.

UTEP had four players reach double-digits in kills, Serena Patterson (14), Ema Uskokovic (11), Sara Pustahija (11) and Price (10). Mattie Gantt (27) and Hande Yetis (21) combined to put up 48 assists for the Miners and Hula Crisostomo had a team-high 17 digs, while Patterson tallied 11 for a double-double.

UTEP held the statistical advantage in kills (63-55) and aces (17-8) but were outhit (.279 – .215) and outblocked (12.0 – 8.0).

“I wasn’t disappointed at all in our effort to win, our desire to compete, or our ability to play with and beat great teams,” head coach Ben Wallis said. “What I’m disappointed in is our ability to find someone on this roster that will decide to close out matches and do the right things out of system when we need to against the best teams that we’ll play this year. That person is here on our roster, I just need one or two of our talented players that score points to make that leap and take the next step in our season.” 

SET ONE | South Dakota took an early lead with a 25-20 set one victory. The Coyotes broke out first with a 4-1 lead and after a service ace from Mattie Gantt tied up the set, 5-5, South Dakota put up a 7-1 scoring run to pull ahead of the Miners, 12-6. As UTEP was down by eight, Sara Pustahija put up three kills, but the Coyotes remained in front, 22-16. A ball handling error by Alianza Darley locked in the set win for USD, 20-25.

SET TWO | The Miners kept a tight set to start game two and back-to-back South Dakota errors gave UTEP the lead, 7-6. After eight tied scores, an attack error by South Dakota gave the Miners the final lead of the set, 17-16. With UTEP ahead at 20-18, kills by Marian Ovalle and Pustahijia forced a South Dakota timeout, and after the break the Miners allowed two points to the Coyotes before securing the set win, 25-21, with kills by Price and Uskokovic.

SET THREE | Another 25-21 set win for the Miners, gave them a 2-1 advantage in the match. UTEP was first to get points on the board and would go on a 9-3 run, just before a successful challenge by South Dakota forced a UTEP timeout at 15-11. UTEP remained in control until an attack error by Pustahija tied the set at 20-20 but redeemed herself with a kill on the next rally to bring back a UTEP lead. Back-to-back kills by Uskokovic and Price closed the set win, 25-21.

SET FOUR | The Coyotes were not to be tamed and came back to win set four, going on a 6-0 run to take a 17-9 lead to force a fifth set. 

SET FIVE | The final set started with a 3-0 run from the Coyotes, but it was a back-and-forth battle all the way. A kill from Aimee Adams tied the score at 13-13 before another kill from Elizabeth Juhnke put South Dakota in the lead. A Coyote error gave the Miners match point at 15-14, but after a UTEP service error, Adams put up a block, and an attack error for UTEP gave South Dakota the 17-15 win.

Final Thoughts from Coach Wallis 

“When I set this tournament up in the Spring, I knew it was really going to test us bringing in four 20-win teams to battle each other. UNM, Portland State, and South Dakota will all win a lot of games in their conference and in their season and I’m proud of the fight we showed against all three teams. We just come up a little short on experience, execution, and a knack for closing out matches. We will be good, we will continue to be an exciting team, and we will be better each week. I promise that. I thought Tori (Price) and Alianza (Darley) had a great tournament overall and I thought that Mattie Gantt was really good for long stretches this weekend too. Hula has been a rock for us so far and her ability to communicate and diagnose things in play has been so much fun to have back this year. Keep coming out to support us El Paso, we’ll keep getting better.”

The Miners return to action as they compete in the Oral Roberts Tournament in Tulsa, Oklahoma Sep. 9-10. UTEP will face Tulsa and Abilene Christian on Friday (Sep. 9), and will close out the tournament against host Oral Roberts on Saturday (Sep. 10).

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