File photo by Ruben R. Ramirez | El Paso Herald Post

UTEP Splits first day matches at Portland State Tournament

PORTLAND, OREGON – UTEP volleyball (7-1) split Friday’s double-header with a sweep against Portland (3-5), 3-0 (25-20, 25-15, 25-18) and a loss against Grand Canyon (7-0), 3-1 (23-25, 22-25, 25-21, 18-25) at the Portland State Tournament.

Senior outside hitter Paulina Perez Rosas was out with an injury. Perez Rosas currently is second on the team is digs and third in kills.

UTEP 3 –  Portland 0

The UTEP volleyball team swept the Portland Pilots, 3-0 (25-20, 25-15, 25-18) at the Portland State Tournament Friday.

Freshman Ema Uskokovic led the team with nine kills and 14 digs. Sophomore setter Hande Yetis tallied 19 assists while senior Kristen Fritsche achieved 14 assists. Yasso Amin recorded 10 kills while Serena Patterson and Uskokovic got nine kills each.

The Miners totaled eight blocks against the Pilots.

“I’m proud of my team for the quick turnaround against Portland,” head coach Ben Wallis said. “Portland was hurting a little bit too and was without one of their better outside hitters. That allowed us to continue to be physical and hit for big numbers in the first two sets.”

UTEP secured the lead in the first set with a 3-0 scoring run. With no lead changes, the Miners stopped the Pilots. They quickly obtained the set win at 25-20 while achieving an outstanding hitting percentage of .464.

Coming off a great start, the Miners set the tone again for the second set, securing the lead. Portland was no match for UTEP this set as the Orange and Blue more than doubled the score, 19-9. The Miners kept the lead once again and left the Pilots down 25-15.

After winning the first two sets, UTEP got at it in the third set with another run at 4-0. Portland struck back to take the lead, but the Miners dug deep and rallied back with a 10-1 run bringing them back on top to win the match with a sweep.

“Ema (Uskokovic) did a pretty good job filling in for Paulina (Perez Rosas) as a 6 row OH and getting that experience for her is great,” Wallis said. “Alyssa Sianez was solid defensively and had to be really tough getting a bigger serve responsibility with Paulina (Perez Rosas) being out. I’m proud of her.”

Grand Canyon 3 – UTEP 1

The UTEP volleyball team suffered its first loss of the season against Grand Canyon, 3-1 (23-25, 22-25, 25-21, 18-25) at the Portland State Tournament Friday.

Sophomore defensive specialist Alyssa Sianez tallied 22 digs in the contest. Senior lead setter Kristen Fritsche recorded 28 assists. On the offensive side, the Miners had three players hit double-digit kills: Serena Patterson (14), Yasso Amin (14) and Ema Uskokovic (11).

The Miners totaled nine blocks.

“We just couldn’t find any rhythm at all against Grand Canyon,” head coach Ben Wallis said. “We were constantly playing catch up. And every time we would tie the score, we’d find a way to error ourselves out of every set. Not having Paulina (Perez Rosas) out there really bothered us because of how much she competes; she allows for others to do their job well.”

It was a back-and-forth first set, with multiple ties and lead changes. The Miners were up 23-22 before GCU tallied three straight points to take the set.

The second set was identical to the first, with the Miners maintaining the lead with a 4-0 scoring run in the beginning. After a lead change, UTEP kept it close and tied it up, 18-18, with a kill from Ava Palm. However, GCU ran with a lead to win the set and take a 2-0 advantage in the match.

UTEP began the third set with a 3-0 scoring run and rallied back in the middle of the set with an outstanding 9-1 scoring run. GCU hustled to close gap, but was unsuccessful in the end. A service error on GCU closed the set and put UTEP back in the match 2-1.

The fourth set consisted of multiple lead changes with UTEP trailing 15-10 after a 3-0 run. The teams went back-and-forth in scoring until GCU stopped the Miners and took control of the set, ending it at 25-18 and taking the match 3-1.

“You have to give Grand Canyon credit,” Wallis said. “They continued to serve rockets at us from the first point to the last.”

UTEP will look for its second straight win when it concludes the tournament against host Portland State at 11 a.m. MT Saturday. It will be streamed by ESPN+, with live stats also available.

For all things UTEP Volleyball click here, for our complete coverage of the Miners, click here.